News & Media

Heather McKellips: Moving forward after the Community Survey

Mon. May 7, 2018

In 2006, I moved back to this community with my husband and kids. Once here, I was surprised when friends, family and strangers bombarded me with the question, “Why would you want to move back to ‘Crapids’?” 

I’ll admit that I connected with the comment, at first, because when I graduated from high school I was very vocal in swearing to leave this town and never return. I couldn’t imagine coming back to the community after experiencing a more exciting life in different places. It didn’t dawn on me that I would choose to return to the community and that it would have so much to love.  

Coming back after several years away, I saw the community with different, and more informed eyes. I noticed assets that I had overlooked when I was younger. I knew I would raise my children in a safe, friendly town that was welcoming and had beautiful natural resources here. I saw all it had to offer … not what it didn’t have. This is NOT “Crapids”; it’s my home and I choose to live here.

In 2017, Incourage surveyed nearly 4,000 residents for their opinions and thoughts on several different community topics. Survey results validated things I saw a decade ago, like the abundant natural resources and recreational opportunities. Residents see our community as hardworking and caring and appreciate the small-town feel.

Do we have challenges? Of course. Survey results also pointed to residents’ call for good quality jobs here. The need for access to information was another challenge that the survey surfaced. But what gives me hope is that residents acknowledge that although they are uncertain of the future, they are ready for change and being part of making that change happen.

Recently, Incourage met with more than 30 community partners who discussed survey results and how it impacts our collective work. It became clear that each of us would like to explore residents’ responses to feeling uninformed about how community decisions are made. Another survey result that needs more discussion is the response that there is a lack of “good jobs” in our community. What are the parameters for a good job? Who provides that input? And once we define a good job, where are they?

I’m glad that I chose to return to the Wisconsin Rapids area. It’s refreshing to know I’m not alone in seeing what is good and valuable in our community. I invite you to talk with your friends and neighbors about what our community offers and work together to address issues that rise. Most importantly, let’s honor our community by talking positively about what it has to offer. To move our community forward and to see the change necessary to grow a vibrant community, we must all be a part of the change we want to see.

Heather McKellips


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  • About Incourage

    Established in rural Wisconsin in 1994 to serve the changing needs of the south Wood County area, Incourage has become a nationally-recognized leader in place-based philanthropy and community development. Guided by values of equity, opportunity, and shared stewardship, Incourage envisions a community that works well for all people. One physical manifestation of this vision is the redevelopment of the Tribune building, which demonstrates Incourage’s user-centered approach to growing a strong and inclusive local economy.