Trowelling for ideas will lead to spades of solutions

Two basic tools any gardener worth his soil keeps in his tool shed are shovels and spades.

Obviously, these earth implements are good for turning dirt over - one in wholesale amounts and the other, the spade, a little more specifically.

Thoughts, opinions and minds were turned over in the Feb. 2 meeting that brought together 30 of Barnwell County's civic, political, service and business leaders.

The purpose was a sort of damage assessment for the county - damage it has already incurred from the faltering economy and other damage expected in the future as the Milliken and Hanesbrands plants close and lay off about 435 people.

The meeting was organized and coordinated by Fred Geier, the director of the Barnwell County United Way. In attendance was Tim Ervolina, the president of the United Way Association of South Carolina.

The meeting was a chance to gauge how different agencies - from law enforcement to human services - are now being affected by the impending closings and how much more they will be affected as the effects of the poor economy manifest itself in the county.

One point of the meeting is to see how the county agencies, churches and organizations represented in the room can help one another right now and not wait on some federal "economic stimulus package" to magically jump-start the local economy or sprout new jobs to replace ones withering away.

As Ervolina pointed out, each group there has resources, talents and gifts that if shared, can help solve the common problem.

Geier, Ervolina and the board of the Barnwell County United Way (many of whom were present at the meeting) should be commended for orchestrated the meeting but also for not letting it turn into a gripe session or pity party.

The attendees for the most part presented their problems and also something else - ideas.

Among the shovelfuls and spadefuls of words and thoughts turned over during the meeting, ideas were planted. Some might take more time than others to germinate in the moist dark loams of our subconscious, but once sprouted, could be viable solutions to our problems.

However, ideas are like vegetation - the improbable or unlikely ideas need to be weeded out while the others are fertilized with encouragement and watered with regular communication with each other.

By working together and looking out for our neighbors, we can see ourselves through these bleak times - using homegrown solutions.