The Buena Vista puts unity in community with its own special event: The BV Strong Community Dinner.
Set in motion in 2014 after the deaths of the Johnsons at Agnes Vaille Falls the preceeding September, the spirit of the dinner has attracted hundreds, including Amy Lively.
“The dinner is one of the reasons we chose Buena Vista when we were relocating to Colorado,” says Lively.
After moving into town in July 2015 from Lancaster, Ohio, Lively and her family hosted a table during the second run of the community dinner, as well as the year after. This year, she takes a bigger role in the planning, giving the event more structure to help it last for years to come.
“(We have) incredible volunteers that make this whole thing happen,” she says. “You have the table hosts and the planning team and everybody who comes to help set up. It’s hundreds and hundreds of people who make the whole thing happen.”
Lively coordinates the volunteer teams, aids with communication and organizes planning meetings.
She has also put together the website for the dinner and automated things like table requests and volunteer offers. In marketing, she’s been helping with the new T-shirt sales.
“I’m just trying to keep the community informed and involved with what’s happening,” she says. “I want to be the go-to when anybody needs anything.”
It may sound like a lot, but it’s easier than you would think, she says.
Only 2 weeks before the dinner and the event is already sold out.
“We’re getting requests every day for more tables, which is really tough,” says Lively. “At this point, this is what we budgeted for, this is what we rented, this is what we reserved. We’re already looking ahead to next year to see what we can do then.”
Moving to Buena Vista was also beneficial to Lively and her husband in being relatively close to their daughter, currently at Colorado University-Boulder, while living in a place that they loved.
“We never questioned our decision to come here, never,” says Lively. “It’s always been very clear that this was the place for our family.”
While in Ohio, Lively was part of a church staff. “I was drawn to learning more about my faith and learning how to make my faith very practical and real in daily life.”
She earned a degree at Southern Ohio School of Ministry in practical ministry.
After moving to Buena Vista, Lively joined her husband in running their small business, The Lively Merchant.
The Livelys have done websites for the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce, Peak Fitness and even a wedding venue at Sunset Ranch called The Barn.
Lively absolutely enjoys taking people’s problems, solving them and turning them into blessings instead.
“My favorite thing is when I can meet with people face to face and learn about their business needs and what their opportunities are, ways to make their lives easier and get their stories out to people,” she says.
In 2015, Lively became a published author, reflecting on her own neighborhood experiences and realizing she didn’t know her neighbors very well.
Her book, “How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird,” covers her understanding on “the steps to change that and to meet them and engage with them and become friends with them, and how other people can do it too and how it benefits our entire community when we’re a people who know our neighbors and care about them in a very practical way.”
The best part of getting published, she says, was “the opportunity to take your own personal experience and what God did in my own life and my neighborhood and share that with other people.”
Lively travels several times a year to other states and even Canada giving talks, sharing her experiences and helping others get to know their neighbors better.
Next month, she’s traveling to a town in Virginia an hour away from Charlottesville to have one of these talks about engaging with neighbors.
“To have that opportunity to go to a place that’s really struggling with these tensions and give practical ways that individuals can make a difference in their community is really exciting,” she says.
In her travels, she has also spread the word on this community dinner in an effort to help other communities start their own.
“After the dinner, we’ll start talking about ways that people can continue the spirit and momentum of the dinner in their own neighborhood, where they can have their own neighborhood community dinner throughout the year,” she says. “I’d like to see hundreds of community dinners in BV throughout the rest of the year.”
She encourages everyone to come and be a part of the dinner. She hopes to see it executed really well and wrapped up in such a way that it will be ready to go again next year.