In my role as chairman of the Wild Rivers Community Foundation, I was able to attend the National Council on Foundations convention last month in San Francisco. I suspect most of you have never heard of the Council on Foundations, but hopefully you may have heard of the Wild Rivers Community Foundation (WRCF) and our parent organization, the Humboldt Area Foundation (HAF). These two foundations serve the area of Humboldt, Del Norte, and Curry counties.

Our mission is to encourage and facilitate active participation in our communities. The recent convention was huge, with over 1,800 attendees representing hundreds of community foundations from all over the United States. HAF and WRCF sent a total of six participants, and during the four days of workshops, discussions, and meetings, we were able to visualize the inner workings of a multitude of other communities.

Having gained all this new insight, I am very pleased to announce that here on the North Coast we are doing really well. When compared to the rest of the nation, we rank right up at the top for being a warm, friendly, and functioning community. I have long suspected, and now am further convinced, that we are quite unique and highly fortunate, both in terms of our strong sense of community and our spectacular natural surroundings. And as we look into our future, and the inevitable changes that it will bring, it is essential that we evaluate this potential change through the perspective of these incredible assets that we already have.

We don't want change just for the sake of change, in terms of just any type of growth, or any type of economic development. Rather, I propose that as we focus more precisely on the future, we do so by looking through the dual lenses of our current strong community and beautiful surroundings, and visualize ways to preserve and enhance these attributes.

While we were in San Francisco, our group had the opportunity to have dinner with a community foundation contingent from Nebraska. The director of the HAF arranged this dinner, stating he felt our two groups had much in common. This turned out to be surprisingly truewe had a fun and informative dinner, and now have some new Nebraskan friends. It turns out that the folks in Nebraska are forging some innovative programs to keep their young adults in the community. In fact, they are even actively recruiting and encouraging those who have left the area to return.

This recent endeavor is in response to many economic changes over the past years that have, unfortunately, left few job opportunities for their children. Some of these economic changes may have been positive in other ways, but were not focused on maintaining opportunities for the young people. Consequently, these young adults left the area, and communities died, as a result of exporting their most precious resourcetheir children.

It has been written that a cardinal symptom of a dying civilization is when the children are forgotten. Nothing is more important to the growth and development of a child than to be surrounded by nurturing family and community. For a child to properly mature, it is essential to have a multi-generational ladder of adults and elders to show the way into adulthood and community responsibility. Therefore, it is crucial for the health and happiness of our community to not just raise our children well, but to create opportunities for them to stay in the community and raise their children well in turn.

At the WRCF, we hope to successfully look through these dual lenses of our sense of community and our wonderful natural surroundings. We need to focus into a future that will promote the kind of change that will allow our children to grow and prosper, and ultimately to stay here and have their own children grow and prosper too.

Kevin Caldwell, M.D., has been a family physician in Crescent City since 1984.