Garden City is a vibrant community made up of residents from many walks of life. From farming families and small business owners that have been here for generations to recently arrived refugees and immigrants, Garden City possesses a rich community fabric that is unique for rural communities of comparable size. Garden City has many community assets, of which I would like to focus on sense of place, arts and culture, and history.
In such a diverse community with a significant immigrant and refugee population, fostering a sense of place in the community must be intentionally worked towards. I have had the privilege of working at the Neighborhood Learning Center (NLC) facilitated by LiveWell Finney County, located in the Apple Garden apartment complex. This apartment complex is largely home to Burmese and Somali populations, many of them newcomers to the US. The NLC is a place for community members to gain access to life skills classes such as ESL, seek guidance in navigating health care, and provide a free summer lunch program for children, among other services. The NLC fosters a sense of place for newcomers to the community of Garden City through providing support and needed services as they become an integral component of the fabric of our community.
The rich diversity of cultures present in Garden City bring assets of arts and culture to the community. Garden City hosts “First Friday Art Walks,” giving residents the opportunity to explore art present in the downtown area. Culture is displayed elsewhere through the presence of ethnic restaurants as well as ethnic grocery stores.
History as a community asset goes hand-in-hand with culture. From my short experience of the last 6 weeks in Garden City, I have gathered that this history of Southwest Kansas is defined by a culture of perseverance. In the Finney County Historical Museum, there is a circa 1860s photograph of multiple men standing underneath a banner that says “CORN DOESN’T GROW IN SOUTHWEST KANSAS,” except the banner is made entirely from corn stalks and corn cobs. This spirited defiance of expectations continues to present itself in Garden City today. This community is a place where immigrants and refugees come to build a good life for their families, defying the odds their previous life experience may have given them. It additionally should not be forgotten that over 150 years after that photo was taken, corn does indeed still grow in Southwest Kansas.
These community assets are just a few of a multitude of assets present in the community of Garden City. Fostering a sense of place, celebrating culture and the arts, and embracing our history of perseverance are three components that make Garden City the vibrant commonwealth it is today.