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From ‘they’ to me
Kristina Hacker

If you haven’t yet seen a production of “Hamilton,” it needs to be on your to-do list for 2022, even if you don’t normally like musicals. This rap musical tells the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. There are many inspirational scenes in the musical, but one of them continues to stand out for me.

At one point, Hamilton meets John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan and they get drinks at a tavern and talk about revolution. Watching that scene made me realize that all big changes in history come down to one or a few people deciding to do something and doing it.

It may seem obvious, but while Hamilton is known as one of the country’s founding fathers, when he decided to help with the revolution, he was just an orphan immigrant with high hopes of succeeding in his new country.

Hamilton and his friends could have sat around complaining that “they” aren’t doing enough to stand up for the colonies’ rights to the King or wait and see if “they” would be successful in changing things without their help (like Aaron Burr wanted to do).

We all need to be more like Hamilton (only with fewer duels) and start making happen the changes we want to see in our world.

The first time I realized that I could actually make difference in my community was in 2005 when I was a college intern for the American Red Cross. As part of my communications internship, I assisted the region’s director in fundraising and media outreach. I helped the director plan and execute a major fundraiser that year that involved a motorcycle ride that ended with a live concert at Lake Tulloch. I couldn’t believe that I played a part in helping put together such a large and successful event.

There are many instances in Turlock where a group of citizens have gotten together to make a change, here are just a few.

— In 2012, a group of skateboarders convinced the City Council to rename the Turlock Skate Park in honor of their friend, Brandon Koch. He wasn’t a former mayor, a major philanthropist, or the sort of local luminary most local parks are named after. But Koch was a man worth remembering, according to his family, friends, and the nearly 1,000 people who signed a petition in support of renaming the skate park in his honor.

— Also in 2012, Erin Nelson and Danielle and Michael Everett partnered with Emanuel Medical Center to found Jessica’s House, offering children and families hope as they grieve the loss of a loved one.

When Nelson’s husband passed away, leaving her to care for two young children, it was only the support of friends and family that got her through, she said. The experience led Nelson to become a certified grief counselor – and to ask why there wasn’t a place to help children work through this challenging time.

Nelson later met the Everetts, whose daughter Jessica – the house’s namesake – passed in 2004, when the 9-year-old lost a nearly three-year battle with leukemia.

The Everetts and Nelson worked with Emanuel Medical Center to make Jessica’s House a reality – and a testament to the memory of Jessica Everett, who left a mark on Emanuel’s workers and patients.

— Turlock resident Julia Sankey has always wanted to live in a town with a community garden, so she took it upon herself to make it happen. 

Sankey approached the Turlock Community Collaborative — a network of public service agencies, businesses and individuals interested in making Turlock a better place — during a May 2020 Zoom meeting with the idea of a community garden. That was when she met Turlock International Rescue Committee volunteer and donations coordinator Jonathan Partridge, who said his organization was also interested in such an endeavor. 

By July 2020, Sankey and Partridge had a group of supporters and soon-to-be Board members and were meeting regularly to discuss the possibility of a community garden in Turlock. The group spent the summer touring gardens in nearby cities like Modesto and Stockton, seeing how they worked and what features should be included in the garden back home. 

On Nov. 14, 2020, Turlock Community Gardens signed a lease on land behind Cornerstone Covenant Church at the rate of one dollar per year, which will serve as the home of the first community garden.

Hopefully, one of these stories has inspired you to stop waiting around for “them” to make a difference in your community and instead step up yourself to make things happen. Apply to join a City of Turlock commission; join a service club; start a campaign for the betterment of Turlock; or run for public office — whatever you decide to do, be a part of the solution.