Communities of Transformation  Celebrates Accomplishments in the Spite of Pandemic

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By Hope McCormick & Emily Proctor

Communities of Transformation (COT) South Walton is pleased to highlight the accomplishments of Susannah Wright and Mike Robinson.

COT is a relatively new program, offered by Caring and Sharing of South Walton, that takes a holistic approach to help under-resourced people build leadership skills and develop supportive friendships to assist them in transforming their lives.

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Wright, whose graduation ceremony was cancelled due to the pandemic, is celebrating her success after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. “It’s nice having people to celebrate with,” Wright said. “They’ve all been very kind and they’re there when I need them. You always need someone in your corner, and with COT you have a whole community in your corner.”

Wright joined COT as a student in March of 2019, when the South Walton chapter was just getting started. Her COT family has kept her motivated, as they celebrated the completion of each task on the road to her degree.

“When it got hard, COT reminded me why I’m doing this,” she said. “It’s because I love this community, and I want to show kids how much they matter to this community, and what they can do. I want to tell the kids, ‘I’m proud of the way you’re growing and learning, but who you are is enough right now.’ I learned that from COT, that who you are now is OK, even if you’re working to improve yourself.”

Robinson, a veteran who served for almost a decade, found his transition back to civilian life difficult. While working to heal past traumas and make a new start, he befriended Courtenay,  who was already involved with COT.

“I came to observe the meetings, and I felt comfortable because they were vulnerable, too. When a new class opened up, I signed up officially.” He added, “I like how people don’t judge me there. It’s people from all walks of life interacting as peers.”

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Like Wright, Robinson says COT has taught him about goal setting and “basically how to approach a problem in your life when you have the support around you. It’s helped me to look at my life, slow down a little, and attack a problem systematically. Step by step.”

Robinson had dreamed of opening his own business, using his years of experience in landscaping and tree service. He was doing some contract work as a climbing arborist, but was frustrated with some of the people he worked with and the life choices they were making. It was important to him to surround himself with like-minded people who were committed to improving their lives. So, a little over a month ago, with Courtenay’s help, he started Bayside Tree Service. Robinson believes he will be successful, because he is well qualified to provide people with expert service. “A lot of people can use a chainsaw, but not everybody pays attention to OSHA safety codes and the science of how to correctly work on a tree.”

“I’m in the beginning phases of the business,” he said. “I’ve had some really good customers. It’s a little slow, and that’s scary. But I’m excited.”

He is eager to share his love for COT. “My hope would be that we can get the word out and show people what COT can do for you,” he said.

For more information about COT, and how you can be a part of this community program, contact hopemccormick.cot@gmail.com or call Caring and Sharing of South Walton at 850-267-2866.

About the Writers: Hope McCormick is Community Development VISTA for Communities of Transformation South Walton. Emily Proctor is Director of Outreach at Caring and Sharing of South Walton.

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