In a time when we’re constantly flooded with bad news and negativity, Lisa Wickens has started a movement called Positive Olalla Projects(POP). And the inspiration behind this idea came from an unlikely pop-culture source.
“I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls, and they have town meetings,” Wickens said.
“In the middle of the night one night, I woke up and thought we should have town meetings.”
She took this idea to Ted Macomber, Olalla Elementary’s principal, to see if they could host the meetings at the school. Macomber agreed, and the project effort took off.
“Olalla used to have a lot of community involvement, and we want to bring that back,” Wickens said.
“Right now is a really amazing time with a lot of growth and in doing things. That’s where this group comes in.”
The group isn’t about sharing what is negatively going on in the community, but instead is trying to create new solutions.
“It’s not about vanishing darkness, it’s about adding light,” Wickens said.
Wickens’ class created gifts and care packages to send to soldiers overseas during the holidays. After witnessing the joy these kids had in doing something good for others, the second-grade teacher wanted to create a non-profit to continue that good will.
POP is a stepping stone in doing that.
She believes that kids need to see good to really believe in it and feel that connection to their community.
“This can appeal to so many,” Wickens said. “Instead of (being) far-reaching, this can affect our own personal corner of the world. It’s really powerful and provides a lot of ownership.”
She originally posted the idea on the Fans of Olalla Facebook page, a place for members of the community to share events and ongoings. People quickly responded to Wickens’ idea.
“We already have 165 people in the Facebook group, and we’re making a website for people who aren’t on Facebook to learn more,” Wickens said.
The group’s first meeting on April 20 brought out 45 adults and 10 kids who were all interested in making their community better. Ages ranged from students in kindergarten to 81-year old women who have lived in the community their entire lives.
“It’s open to anyone and everyone,” Wickens said.
“It’s not just for people who currently live in Olalla. One joined and said, ‘I don’t live there now but grew up in Olalla and want to be involved.’”
She said anyone with ties to the community are encouraged to take part.
At the meeting held at Olalla Elementary, sheets with suggestions for projects were handed out to attendees.
Ideas that came back included a chicken rescue, where anyone who is willing to donate grain for the chickens being raised will receive fresh eggs in return; and beach cleanups and landscaping at the schools.
A man who owns a carpet company offered to help and give discounted work to homes that were damaged in the storms earlier in the year.
But Wickens’ favorite so far was a post on a women’s personal Facebook page that was brought to the attention of the group. A woman who had brain surgery for Parkinson’s Disease had to shave off her hair for the procedure. She wanted to learn different ways of wearing scarves. Many after seeing this post quickly volunteered.
“It’s as simple as getting the word out,” Wickens said. “It can be one person that could use some support, all the way up to big stuff.”
Wickens said she hopes POP can be a template used in other towns to create similar groups, no matter the city’s size.
“So many elementary schools each have their own community, and even big cities have little communities,” she said. “There are no limits, just endless possibilities.”
For more information on POP, and to hear about ways to get involved and to see ideas that are already being generated, visit the Positive Olalla Projects Facebook page.
“People are on fire,” Wickens said.
“This is bigger than us. It’s pretty cool to see children coming up to me in the hallway saying how they and their family are getting involved.