Last week, the Pontiac Community Heart & Soul program held its first “Thirsty Thursday Topics” event and, this Saturday, has its inaugural “Rock the Block” for the first city ward. Kelly Eckhoff, Pontiac City Council member and part of the Pontiac Heart & Soul group’s events team, said Thursday that feedback received at the “Thirty Thursdays” gathering was good, and hoped to have an even better turnout for this weekend’s kickoff.
    While the first “Thirsty Thursday Topics” drew only 11 residents, Eckhoff said that the response was very informative.
    “We didn’t really have any expectations going into it, what with not knowing how many people would come,” she said. “Our wrap-up afterwards was that, while we were somewhat disappointed with the numbers we had, we were extremely pleased with the conversations and discussions that took place amongst those that did come. We spent about an hour in small groups talking about some questions we had.”
    Eckhoff noted that asking questions of residents about how they feel about the city they call home was part of the process that would eventually lead Pontiac into looking to new avenues the municipality could take into the future. One of the questions, for example, sought residents’ opinions on what they’d like to see changed in the next five years. Another question wanted to know what sorts of structures or places typified Pontiac.
    “In my small group, the swinging bridges was one answer to what exudes the character of Pontiac,” Eckhoff said. “Someone else said that the Historic Courthouse square. There were about 10 of us in the group I was in, there was a lot of just great conversations. (Parks and Recreation Director) Taylor Baxter sat in on my group, and some of the things that came up out of our conversation, he was really enthused about some ideas that he could initiate through Parks and Recreation.”
    Eckhoff said that the “Rock the Block” event on Saturday, which will feature free food and games, would be geared more toward families, but that everyone in Ward 1 was welcome to attend.
    “These events are not intended as a means of getting more volunteers to help with the process — it’s a means of us to get the community engaged in a conversation with us,” she stated. “When we have these conversations, we can start funneling the feedback to the data team, who are entering all of this data that we’ll be able to review so we can come up with some common threads.
    “Saturday, we will do the same thing: we’ll eventually sit down in small groups and have conversations and maybe get the kids to give us some feedback about stuff. They are important, too, since they are the future of Pontiac.”
    The Pontiac Community Heart & Soul Ward 1 “Rock the Block” program will take place at the Boys & Girls Club this Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. The group is requesting RSVPs to gauge turnout but notes that it is not necessary.