McAdam, New Brunswick was faced with a dilemma: Either continue a 30 year downward decline after trains stopped rolling through the rail hub, or begin the slow, hard work of reimagining what the community could be.
The community used the Georgetown Conference as a catalyst to fight for its future.
Following a pair of town hall meetings, a group of citizens – supported by, but to some degree independent from, village council – proceeded with a series of initiatives aimed at changing the direction of the village.
In order to change the “everyone is leaving” conversation, the village began not only actively tracking newcomers, but engaging them through a citizen’s welcoming committee. Thus, newcomers to McAdam now receive a gift basket that explains not just all the services available (including where to obtain wood), but all the social opportunities as well.
The McAdam Action Group has also spearheaded efforts to beautify the village through memorial flower boxes. The key foundation of the business plan is that private citizens donate money to have a flower box erected in memory of a relative/friend. The funds cover the cost of the flowers as well as (starting 2016) the wages of a student to water the flowers on weekends. The end result is increased beauty, part-time employment, and all at no cost to the taxpayer.
A citizen’s group has also engaged in plans to beautify the village through one major volunteer-driven project per year, or more. Past achievements include repainting a caboose parked out front of the iconic train station, as well as a spruce-up of a public walking trail.
In conjunction with the Courier/Courier Weekend community newspaper, the village engaged in a branding and marketing exercise; the artwork donated by the newspaper staff (editor Vern Faulkner) which provided the village a modern design at no cost.
Another group has formed to create a registered non-profit, with the goal of raising money to refurbish a vacant or otherwise long for-sale house. The intent is to renovate the house, then offer it as a prize in a “home lottery.” By using local contractors and donated labour, the costs will be kept low, but the community will also have a chance to engage in a common project. The raffled home will ideally cause a family to move to McAdam, boosting the local population, while transforming an otherwise unused property into one that is lived in. This will increase general appearance and community pride. The long-term goal is to save part of the proceeds of the raffle and use the rest to renovate another home and repeat the process. Once four-five such iterations are complete the total saved will act as seed money (ideally involving senior levels of government) to create a multi-unit, assisted living complex for adults with developmental challenges. This, in turn, will create jobs in the area (caregivers).