Aaron Baker really loves small towns, particularly his small town of Atlanta, Missouri. He is an expert and community clean-up events, engaging help and funds, identifying creative ways to solve problems, and his enthusiasm and passion are infectious.
If you know anything about Aaron Baker, you know he is obsessed with his small town. He’s also in constant motion to keep Atlanta, Missouri moving forward.
Aaron will tell you his most important job is being a husband to Erica and father to their four children. Then, he’ll tell you about being the local 4-H Club leader. Aaron works from home in government affairs and crisis communications for several Fortune 500 companies. Aaron says his real job subsidizes his habit of loving his community.
Aaron also helps organize an annual Sunday morning workday at his local church when the congregation leaves the church to be the hands and feet of Christ in the community. This year, around 400 volunteers served on 24 teams in two counties to do volunteer work outside of the church on a Sunday morning. This included more than 60 volunteers working in Atlanta on various projects.
In this episode, Aaron talks about motivating people in “micro towns,” those communities that don’t have an Airbnb or a large employer but have people committed to improving the local quality of life. Through small grants, fundraising, and sweat equity, Aaron has worked with others to keep his small town alive; this includes about 100 locals that have volunteered for community workdays to paint, landscape, clean up, and more. The Bakers help organize annual events in the community to keep people connected to each other and the local K-12 school, where Aaron is a school board member. Each year, the Bakers also help organize and host events in downtown Atlanta, where thousands of people gather throughout the year for the area’s largest Easter Egg Hunt, the annual “Big Wheels” event, and the town’s Homecoming Festival. Aaron has also helped the city receive grant funds to demolish abandoned homes and commercial buildings that have resulted in new homes being built and young families moving back to the area.
One century ago, areas like this in North Missouri had twice the population they do today; Aaron wants to reverse that trend.
On weekends, you can find Aaron spraying weeds around town or mowing neighbors’ lawns that need a little help. Aaron will be the first to admit he doesn’t have it all figured out, but he’s going to keep working hard to keep his small town growing.
In this episode, we cover:
How tact plays an important role in community morale when you’re trying to move people forward.
Managing liability and risk and weighing your options
How practical things like a place for yard waste and clean fill in a small town can keep folks encouraged to keep up with properties.
Why demolition projects are so important to keep a town moving forward and looking alive.
How to ask for help in a way that is specific, personal, and effective.
Links + Resources Mentioned:
To learn more, email Aaron Baker at email@example.com.
Episode 99 with Jeff Siegler: https://www.growingsmalltowns.org/post/episode102/
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