Living Democracy

Hannah White appreciates Collinsville's hospitality

Ten weeks ago, I packed up my car, hugged my parents, and headed to Collinsville. I was full of nerves but was also excited to see where this summer would lead.

The people of Collinsville represent some of the best people I have met or will ever meet. The people of this town are hospitable, open, and kind – not just to me, but to all they encounter. I wasn’t expecting to be greeted with such warmth, but I am thankful for that and how it made my transition to town so much easier.

I am so grateful to Mark and Patricia Shatzel for opening their home to me for the past 10 weeks. Mrs. Patricia cooked some of the most wonderful food I’ve ever had, many of the meals made specifically for me, and it was so appreciated. Mr. Mark sat with me every night at the dinner table, investing in my work this summer but also interested in my future plans.

Because of this couple I felt at home for my summer. They helped me experience local culture. I was taken down pig trails, to the local pottery plant, and driven around in a firetruck – all thanks to Mr. Mark and Mrs. Patricia.

I also want to thank the people at City Hall, specifically Jill Tidmore and Lori Campbell. They greeted me so warmly, and Jill ran with my idea to improve the district map for Collinsville City Council. We worked together to create an easier-to-understand map for next year’s election, and I’m so glad that project came to fruition.

The Collinsville Historical Association were also members of my summer story. They welcomed me in to their organization, and we worked together on different projects including events at the Cricket Theatre and a new website. All the CHA members were so kind and encouraging, and I’m grateful to have met them.

My main community partners, Jennifer Wilkins and the Collinsville Public Library staff and board, welcomed me with open arms, and I love them so much. They ran with my projects, gave me more projects, and we shared so many laughs. They were who I spent almost every day with, and their kindness and encouragement will be with me forever.

This summer was exactly the push I needed before going into my final year of undergraduate studies at Auburn University. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this summer, and I think the lack of expectations allowed it to become what it was meant to be.

Since I couldn’t plan out everything this summer would contain, I had to rely on others and start saying “yes” more often. I don’t think I turned down a single invitation this summer, and that’s how I got out of my comfort zone.

By saying “yes” I met and participated in things I never would have before. I helped to fix the air pump on a firetruck, joined a book club, and taught kids about Alabama. I designed a new website from scratch, met Helen Keller’s great-niece, and made approximately 72 cupcakes.

I am humbled and astonished at the depth of relationships I formed in Collinsville. I am so lucky to have spent my summer there, and I am just as lucky to have a place that makes saying goodbye so hard.

Collinsville, thank you for being everything I needed and more. Small towns are special places, and you are something extra special. I’m a better person after spending time with this town.

Last Updated: August 12, 2019