Getting Started On Your Own

“I just want to help my community.”

These words have launched many West Virginians into action to help make their communities a better place to live, work, and visit. Maybe this is where you are finding yourself. You want to make a difference in your community, but aren’t sure how to get started. We’re here to help.

Begin by determining what YOU want for your community. Do you want to see a community garden? Murals and public art? New businesses? Better signage and wayfinding? 

You may already have a project related to this in mind. Before you start your work, it’s important to understand why you are interested in doing this kind of work to support your community. Getting rooted in our personal purpose keeps each of us going, even if progress feels slow or challenging. Having a deeper understanding of what is important to you and why will help drive your efforts and will influence how you engage others. 

How much of a difference can one person make? 

You can certainly make progress and affect change in your community by working independently, identifying a need, and trying to address problems yourself. And depending on the size of your project, you may not need to recruit others. In future lessons, we will share how you can engage others and establish a team. But for right now, let’s focus on you. 

The activities and reflection in this lesson will help you better get to know your own goals and determine your personal purpose.


Choose 2-3 activities to help you identify your purpose and create a deeper understanding of what is important to you. Take your time with the activities; they aren’t intended to be completed in one sitting.  

Writing Activities:

  • Create a Community Wishlist – This exercise allows you to determine what you want to see in your community and why. Hold on to this exercise if you want to continue with future Virtual Learning Tools, you will add to this as you continue to work through the lessons.
  • Complete your Story of Me – This exercise will help you understand what is important to you, determining what events in your life have shaped your story and led you to this journey of community building.  


Reading Activities:

  • Asset Based Community DevelopmentThis is an approach to lasting, community-led change. The practice of Asset Based Community Development asks residents to look at current and potential assets of their community, rather than focusing on the needs and deficits. The practice considers local assets to be the primary building blocks for developing strong, sustainable communities. Residents often have the power to drive change themselves. This resource was developed by the abcd Institute at DePaul University. 


Self-assessment Activity: 

  • High Five Strengths Finder – The High Five strengths finder helps you determine your core strengths and maximize your potential to do more of what you love.

Reflection Questions:

  • What assets are the most important in my community? 
  • What assets leave the opportunity to further develop? 
  • What is my biggest takeaway from my Story of Me? 
  • What surprised me about my High Five Results? What are my strengths? 
  • What strengths will be important in the journey to improve my community? What are areas that I may need to improve?

Community Development in Action

Candice Helms, a Texas native, found herself living in a small WV community with few connections, but she was eager to make a difference. She stepped up and decided to get involved in the efforts to revitalize Hinton, WV, her new community. Candice was new to community development, but had a passion and determination to make a difference. 

Learn more about a recent “win” for Candice and her team in Hinton »

Ready to keep going?