This week I was reminded that there’s something in these pre-election times that’s more powerful than divisiveness: it’s cooperation.

For about four years, I’ve been working with a committed group of individuals to bring a Levitt outdoor concert venue to Sioux Falls. The Levitt Foundation is a national network of outdoor concert venues whose mission it is to build community through music. This week, we kicked off a fundraising campaign that is the culmination of many years of hard work by many groups. I’ve been amazed by how well so many people have worked together to make this happen.


Our local organization, Friends of Levitt Shell Sioux Falls, has been working since 2011 to bring a Levitt venue to Sioux Falls. We’ve worked with the Mayor, the City Council, the Parks and Recreation department, outside event organizers, leaders of performance venues, an advertising agency, a fundraising consultant, the Chamber of Commerce, volunteer fundraisers, the media and more. There have been plenty of opportunities for turf wars, dysfunction and fear of change. In fact, I would expect some of that. Instead, there’s been cooperation.

The teamwork continued in contract negotiations. The contract is lengthy and assigns significant responsibilities to the City, the National organization and local board. There were some tight deadlines, but it all went smoothly because each group was focused on doing something good for our community. The City Council approved it. To read more about this effort in Sioux Falls, please click here.

The national Levitt’s mission is to create community through music. It’s interesting that the actual effort to bring a Levitt venue to town is also creating a sense of community through partnerships and hard work.

Levitt Community Appeals Kick-Off

This past week, we had the kick-off for the Levitt’s Chamber of Commerce’s Community Appeals capital campaign. We applied for this designation two years ago and were thrilled to receive it. Our goal is to raise over one million dollars from now until March. The Executive Director of the Levitt national organization was in town for our kick-off, volunteer trainings and meetings.

While here, she saw the very best of Sioux Falls. Our outstanding campaign consultant conducted training sessions for over 50 volunteer fundraisers. These volunteers have big jobs and families and yet, they are willing to find the time to ask businesses to support this effort. She got to know my fellow campaign co-chairs and was impressed with their dedication to this effort. More examples of cooperation.

During the Executive Director’s visit, we also met with the Mayor and some of his team. He was (and has been) highly supportive and enthusiastic about this project. We met with the Director of Park and Recreation, as well as the project manager for the site. Everywhere, cooperation. We met with businesses to ask for their investment and you guessed it: more support. We had a kick-off event that was well-attended and brought together the Chamber of Commerce, our local organization and the City. We had lunch with some City Councilors who are also supportive of this effort.

As we went from meeting to meeting to meeting, we experienced the same thing over and over: a willingness to work together. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this massive level of teamwork in action before. It’s exquisite.

I spoke at our kick-off this week. So fun!

I spoke at our kick-off this week. So fun!

Cooperation Prevails

At a time when the nation (and world) is at odds with itself in significant ways, this past week was a sparkling reminder that discord and violence are not the norm.

Instead, just on this one project, there are hundreds of people working together to make Sioux Falls a better place for all of its residents.  When a lot of well-meaning and good-hearted people join together, we can do something big.

The next time you feel discouraged about the state of current affairs, try turning off the TV and putting down the newspaper. This is only one aspect of the “real world.”

This week, I saw another side of the real world at work. I bet if you look at your life, you can see many similar efforts by well-intentioned people who are trying to do the right thing. You are probably part of such an effort. And while these stories don’t make the 24-hour news cycle, they are valuable.

While it’s important to be aware of the world’s pain and do what we can to change it, we can also choose to bask in the sunshine of these happier stories. They are all around us. I’m grateful to be part of this one.

(To watch a goosebump-producing 6 minute video about the Levitt Foundation, please click here.)