On a sunny Friday morning, I made my way to Goldsboro to join our partners at Resourceful Communities for a panel discussion on philanthropy that they were hosting as part of their HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) convening.

I like to arrive earlier and stay later than necessary when I can so that I can soak up all the energy and conversation swirling around when groups like this one gather. It was a refreshing day of honest dialogue with local leaders from rural communities who are on the front lines of working to help their areas thrive.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Resourceful Communities, I encourage you to check it out. This dynamic team is committed to a strength-based approach to lifting rural communities that is both inspirational and transformational.

The entire day with such creative grassroots community organizers was refreshing on a very deep level. Being surrounded by the people who are doing the work we care so much about at the Foundation about reinforces our commitment we hold to the values we hold dear.

Throughout my time there, one word kept entering my mind: reimagining – as in, reimagining what our communities can be.

We heard from the pastor from a congregation in Faison about seeing an old abandoned farmers market sitting in his town. He had the clarity of vision to reimagine what it could be. He looked at that vacant building and saw a soccer field for local young people, especially Latino youth, who needed a place to play. And that is what you will see there today.

I see reimaginations happening every day in a lot of spaces where we work. This pastor’s story reminded me of so many other communities we have the honor of impacting.

Whether it’s the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center in Edenton, new landscapes to mitigate flood damage in Lumberton or a preschool in Hickory filling a void of opportunity, North Carolinians are looking around at their communities are imagining what can be.

What’s so gratifying about our work is knowing that it only begins with reimagining. We get to take that imagination and the work and efforts of local leaders and bring resources to the table that can empower real change. But it all starts with the vision.

We can all look at an old abandoned farmers market and see something weathered with a lack of hope that shows the crumbling of a town. We can do that in many places in our state.

Or we can choose to look at those spaces and reimagine them. It’s all a choice, and I hope we’ll choose our imaginations more.