Yesterday, I called a home inspector, Ed Green, to schedule service for our new home. He came highly recommended by our realtor. As soon as he started talking, I knew why.

Ed loves his community. He shared story after story about postive people and experiences in his hometown. His sense of belonging — being in the exact right place for his family — was infectious.

What qualities turn a subdivision into a neighborhood? What transforms a town into a community? How can leaders, or anyone, help people gain a sense of belonging exactly where they live?

People in community work together. The people in Ed’s community wanted to build a new sports stadium for their high school. The taxes in this area are traditionally low, and the school district didn’t have funds to support the expansion. The people in the district joined forces and raised money from within the community, selling countless candy bars, securing a private loan to complete the project. Community members are still working to raise money to pay off the debt. In a similar situation, when the state couldn’t fund an indoor pool, the school district partnered with the local YMCA by giving them land to build a new location, adjacent to the high school. In return, the YMCA allows the school swim teams to practice in their pools.

People in community open their homes/lives to each other. Ed happily recalled Halloween when his kids were young. While his wife stayed home to hand out candy, he walked through the neighborhood with his kids. At about every third house, Ed said, someone was handing out special treats for the adults, like one family who supplied Rum Punch. This generous thoughtfulness, Ed explained, showed how the famillies in his community always interacted, looking out for each other’s children and welcoming one another like family.

People in community understand (and take pride in) the features that set their town apart. As I talked with Ed, he quickly pointed out all the benefits he perceives about living where he is. He easily differentiated the unique qualities of his town, especially in comparison to other nearby suburbs. He expressed and identified what makes his hometown special.

As I have written in previous posts, though, community is often elusive. People hunger for community and connectedness with others, but it is often hard-won. Even when leaders in a town or organization work to build community among the residents or employees, there will still be many who choose not to participate in the community or just can’t seem to find their niche.

What ideas do you have about how city leaders can help build a sense of community? If you love where you live and have a sense of being part of a true community, I would love to hear your stories.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.