BY JUSTIN LEIGHTY
GOSHEN -- While some cities struggle with hollowed-out downtowns, Goshen has a thriving business and cultural heart in spite of heavy national retail chains that sit on the fringes of the city.
Many residents thank Dave Pottinger for his role in revitalizing downtown Goshen, and he just received word that he won a regional award for his efforts.
WHAT'S THE AWARD?
The Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership is an annual award given by NeighborWorks, a nonprofit organization organized by Congress to help revitalize communities.
The award, named for a Pittsburgh woman who helped spawn the community-based development movement, recognizes "outstanding contributions by dedicated community leaders," according to the NeighborWorks Web site.
One person from each of eight regions across the country gets the word each year.
"The winners' stories are shining examples of the difference just one person can make; first, as leaders themselves and, then, by developing the potential of additional new leaders through resident involvement. They demonstrate why committed resident leaders are critical to building and maintaining strong, healthy neighborhoods," according to NeighborWorks.
WHO NOMINATED HIM?
Local nonprofit housing agency LaCasa Inc. nominated Pottinger for the award.
LaCasa is the local NeighborWorks affiliate agency. Its nomination of Pottinger won in the Great Lakes region, which consists of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The award, said LaCasa's Bonnie Martin, is "for all the work that he's done. He's certainly made our downtown better."
Julia King, also of LaCasa, said they nominated Pottinger because he's had "at least a hand in 14 buildings being renovated downtown. He doesn't just renovate a building, he creates a space where people can be creative.
"He's revitalized downtown Goshen in a big way," King said. Pottinger helps foster creative new energy, "and people go there and blossom."
Pottinger serves in various capacities, but he isn't one to seek the limelight.
"He kind of quietly does it in the background," King said. "He has just like stayed with the revitalization for so long."
In the nomination process, LaCasa spoke with Pottinger's family. One of his daughters, Charity Boyd, said, "For my dad, it's always been about giving back to the community ... and he's showing everyone how it can be done."
In LaCasa's nomination, the organization told NeighborWorks, "As countless small towns across the country have watched their Main Streets wither, Goshen boasts a vibrant economic city center. Goshen's success is due, in large part, to the work of Dave Pottinger."
LaCasa added that it's difficult to overstate Pottinger's impact.
"Over the past two decades, Pottinger has played a major role in both stabilizing and modernizing the community. He has worked with a range of people to usher in an era that now includes a year-round local farmers market, a potters guild, a photography guild, a woodworkers guild, art gallery, and an active theater company.
"Pottinger puts his talents to work carving out spaces in which young creative residents can stretch and grow. He doesn't consider his renovations complete until he has found a suitable tenant, something (or someone) that will enhance the downtown experience."
His work, according to LaCasa, helps enhance the community as a whole, and dovetails with LaCasa's work investing in community housing.
"He demonstrates the value of renovation over demolition."
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
There will be a local recognition ceremony, probably tied in with next month's First Friday, according to King. Pottinger gets a free round-trip ticket to attend the 2010 NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute Oct. 21 to 24 in Louisville, Ky.
He then gets two free round-trip tickets to Washington, D.C., in December for an awards reception and NeighborWorks Training Institute, where he will receive the Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Award and the President's Volunteer Service Award. He'll get a tour of the Capitol, including a visit with Indiana's members of Congress.
SECOND LOCAL AWARD WINNER
Dave Pottinger is the second Goshen resident to win the Dorothy Richardson Award in the last several years.
In 2006, Dr. James Nelson Gingerich won the award for his work with Maple City Health Care Center and the East Lincoln Crossroads Neighborhood Association.
Bonnie Martin of LaCasa said having two winners from Goshen is "a big honor and it's indicative of the fact that we have a lot of people working for neighborhoods in our community."
AT A GLANCE
Who: Dave Pottinger
Occupation: Retired RV parts designer, he now works to rehabilitate buildings in Goshen, an outgrowth of his love of antiques.
What you might know him for: Renovating the Mill Race Center, which houses the farmers market, potters' guild and woodworkers' guild. He's also had a hand in the streetscaping projects that improved the looks of downtown intersections and sidewalks, and has played a huge role in revitalizing downtown, both in his direct work on buildings and behind-the-scenes work to promote downtown.
What you might not know: He's raced cars, broken horses and built a cabin in a week.