We dedicated the pages of our annual progress edition to an informal examination of who we are as a community. It’s a sample size and there are sure to be omissions, but the people in this publication serve as excellent representatives to what we’re trying to illustrate.
We are also encouraged that, despite challenging economic times, the essence of our community is on display pretty much wherever we look. We can see this strength of character in the hearts of people in Nappanee, Syracuse, Millersburg, New Paris, Goshen, Bristol, Middlebury, Shipshewana, Topeka and all spots in between.
We are a collection of people whose different experiences and contributions help enhance how we live.
We are Bob Conrad and LeRoy Lambright (page 4), who dedicated their lives to chronicling this community before retiring to Naples, Fla., and Greenville, S.C., respectively.
We are Ebeneezer Chamberlain, John W. Foreman and Merle Shanklin (page 8), all of whom were so important to the history of this community that a school, a football field and a city park now bear their names.
We are Joe Liechty, Richard Aguirre, George Smucker, Sreekala Rajagopalan (page 12) and others who serve on Goshen’s Community Relations Commission with a goal of opening our minds to our own diversity.
We are Al Lane (page 18) who stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day before moving to Goshen to run convenience stores; and Thavisak Mounsithiraj (page 23) who spent most of his childhood in Laos and is now the men’s soccer coach at Goshen College.
We are Steve Chupp (page 20), who dreamed of being a firefighter as a kid and grew up to become the chief of the Elkhart Township Volunteer Fire Department more than 30 years ago.
We are Anna Montgomery (page 26), Ian Rogers (page 27) and Shawn Dechant (page 34), who each grew up in Goshen before heading west to become highly successful in the fields of music, online music marketing and sports videography, respectively.
We are Jim Hoke, Mitch Herschberger and Brent Bontrager (page 30), friends since adolescence, who are now neighbors in Goshen enjoying life and raising their families near each other.
We are Jason Samuel (page 36) who has helped turn the Goshen College radio station, WGGS, into a regional gem that has helped change how many think about our community.
We are Paul Steury (page 40), who through promotion of sustainable living habits, is trying to leave the community, and the world for that matter, in better condition than he found it.
We are all those people and so many more. We are a collection of voices and faces from different parts of the country and world. We grew up here and moved away to become successful and respected. We came to school here because Elkhart County’s only four-year residential college is respected around the world. We opened small business here because we value the history and integrity of downtown commerce along with the sense of community it instills.
We are not without our challenges as we do not live in a fairy tale. We will continue to have disagreements and differences of opinion. We like it that way because it keeps us honest, keeps us thinking, keeps us progressing, as long as we truly listen.
We are not a community that defines itself by unemployment statistics in our work force or standardized test scores in our schools. We are characterized by all the people who dedicate themselves, no matter how dire the circumstance, to make our community a little stronger each and every day — teachers, civil servants, plumbers, factory workers, Cub Scouts, accountants, truck drivers, gardeners, bankers and even our children who dare to dream big.
This is why we are a great community, because this is who we are.
Michael Wanbaugh is managing editor of The Goshen News