LOWVILLE — The Tug Hill Commission has a question for residents on the hill: Do you feel connected to other people in your community and, generally, in the Tug Hill region?

If you are someone who came for a visit or what should have been a short-term reason but have instead set down roots and stayed, why?

“Research shows that communities are at their best when residents feel connected to each other and feel invested in each other’s welfare,” according to the commission’s news release on a survey they are conducting that explores the social fabric on the hill.

Working with the University of Albany and a regional task force, the commission’s survey explores issues related to social cohesion including social networks, trust, acceptance of diversity, sense of belonging, fairness, solidarity with strangers, political propensity and willingness to participate in one’s community.

“We’ve been hearing from some of our communities when we’re working with them ... that a lot of the time they have a hard time fielding volunteers for their boards, volunteer fire departments or ambulance services. Everybody’s short on people who want to spend time on these things that pay little to no money. That’s been kind of weighing on us,” Tug Hill Commission Executive Director Katie Malinowski said.

After learning of professors at the University of Albany who have been doing surveys looking at how connected people feel with their communities, what keeps people from leaving a community and the general health of volunteerism in those communities, the commission team saw an opportunity to explore the root causes of the issues being raised to them.

Results from the survey will ideally be used to identify what may prevent a strong sense of belonging and limit the urge to participate in community organizations and activities.

The survey window will close at the end of August, but the goal of 2,000 responses is still fairly far away, Ms. Malinowski said.

“We need to get more responses so we feel like we have a good set of data to base our next step on,” she said. “We want to take (the results) back to our task force but we want to make sure our ideas are grounded in reality.”

All residents, homeowners and visitors in the region are encouraged to participate, whether they feel very connected and engaged with the community or, perhaps even more importantly, if they don’t, to help pinpoint why some people stay and others leave the Tug Hill area.

Responses are anonymous and participant identities are protected, although as part of the survey, respondents have a chance to sign up to win a $50 gift card to one of two Tug Hill restaurants.

To participate in the survey online, go to tinyurl.com/tughillcommunity.

The Tug Hill Commission will also have a booth at upcoming county fairs in Lewis, Jefferson and Oneida counties where surveys can be completed online or on paper.

For more information or for a copy of the paper survey, call the commission at 315-785-2380.

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