By Steve Costello
In the two weeks since the “ I Love Rutland ” campaign started via a quick email exchange between a couple of friends, it’s clear it struck a chord.
Born from an idea by Mike Napolitano and quickly nurtured by more than a dozen businesses and nonprofits, city and community leaders and literally thousands of people on-line, “I Love Rutland” has quickly become a mantra.
We’re hearing it in business and private conversations, seeing it across multiple social media platforms, and folks are talking about it on radio and television, and writing about it in letters to the editor. Through passion and energy and a deep-seated love held by people of all walks of life for Rutland, it feels like we’ve awakened a giant.
After what seems like years of self-criticism, some of which was healthy, Rutlanders of all walks of life have embraced I Love Rutland and more importantly, their community.
We’ve only just begun this campaign, but by any measure it’s off to a great start:
More than a dozen businesses and organizations chipped in to fund the campaign and kick it off. They stepped up to support the initiative at the request of Awesome Graphics and Green Mountain Power based on little more than an email invite to help.
More than 2,800 people have liked the I Love Rutland Facebook page, and dozens have shared posts and invited their friends to like the page.
Donna and Bradley GoodHale volunteered to produce “The Heart of Rutland,” a campaign within the campaign to introduce Rutlanders to each other in a fun new way. Check out the I Love Rutland Facebook page to see the first two portraits and vignettes about Rutland.
Dozens of businesses placed I Love Rutland bumper stickers on their counters so folks can pick them up, free, all over town.
More than half the board of aldermen, Mayor Louras and nearly 120 other community and business leaders turned out at the kickoff to learn more and get involved.
Hundreds of people and businesses have reached out to organizers, asking how they can help.
The answers to that question are numerous, but simple:
Visit the I Love Rutland Facebook page, share with the world what you love about Rutland, invite friends to the page, and post good news when you hear about it.
Put a bumper sticker on your car proclaiming your love for Rutland.
Once they are available at www.iloverutlandvt.com, buy a T-shirt, which will spread the word while supporting Wonderfeet Children’s Museum.
Help change the dialogue about Rutland. Correct inaccurate comments you hear about Rutland, and help spread the word about all the positive work that has happened and is happening.
Rutland has challenges like every community, but in the last several years, it has attacked those problems—with enormous success—unlike any community in Vermont. From city government to nonprofits, educators, businesspeople and young leaders, Rutlanders have banded together and made incredible progress.
Folks of all walks of life, from the police department to corporate boardrooms, from classrooms to the manufacturing floor, from paid economic developers to volunteers at nonprofits, have worked together and helped slash crime, improve quality of life, revitalize our downtown, create jobs and grow new businesses. Rutland’s recent successes are unmatched in Vermont, and demonstrate an open, collaborative nature and a deep love for community. Those are the key ingredients in I Love Rutland, and will likely be key elements of the recipe for the city’s continued success.
Steve Costello is a GMP vice president and co-founder of I Love Rutland.