TEAMWORK IN Cortland
By Robert H. Taylor
IN MANY Ohio communities, churches of various denominations are beginning to see the value of real, down-to-earth cooperation. They are learning that a true spirit of community welfare will revitalize not only their own congregations but the entire community of which they are a part.
An outstanding example of this cooperative spirit is the village of Cortland in Trumbull county. Cortland is a town of about 1200 population. It has one major industry, the Richard's Milling Company. It has a bank, a number of stores which serve as the shopping center for a large area, a fine centralized school and two churches, a Methodist and a Christian church.
For over a hundred years the two churches followed their own programs without too much consideration of each other. Nearly two years ago the two ministers, George Van Wingerden, Christian, and Leonard Dittman, Methodist, were playing golf with the banker of the town, Walter Scott, and the head of the milling company, Walter Richards.
Because they could play golf together, they decided that they could work for community welfare together. The result of the golf game was a Civic Club, which energized the cooperative plan that is making Cortland one of the outstanding communities in the nation.
The two churches symbolize the spirit. Van Wingerden and Dittman decided that if they were going to work together, they should do it on more than simply a spiritual basis. It should be a practical plan. While attending a convention together they shared the same room. When they returned to Cortland they had developed the idea of a joint office.
Their church boards caught their vision. So did the men of the town. Bryan Wollam, an insurance broker, had a second floor in his building that was not then occupied. He gave them permission to use it. Other businessmen contributed office equipment, the two ministers and their laymen put in partitions and painted and papered. The office of the Community Churches is now the center of community planning. The two ministers have office hours and at least one of them is on hand every day.
Since the office of the ministers is next door to the village post office, many of the citizens when they come for their mail stop in for a chat. If a couple desires to be married by one of the ministers and he is not present, the other arranges the ceremony for the pair.
The program of this enterprise is carried on by a joint board composed of two members from each church. They select a fifth.
In the list of activities selected by the board for a typical year are the following: community hymn sings on Sunday nights; community fellowship suppers; joint men's meetings each month with outstanding speakers presenting timely subjects; community youth meetings; outstanding religious moving pictures for the entire community; community - wide Thanksgiving; Christmas, Lenten and Easter programs; and a community forum with a program that rivals that of many larger cities.
The past year it was decided that the village should have its own Community Fund Campaign. There were community organizations that deserved community wide support. A playground had been built and needed funds for operation and equipment. The goal was set at $3000. When the campaign closed, more than $3800 had been pledged with more than the goal already contributed in cash.
The impact that real cooperation can make in a community project can be seen in this venture. Experts have agreed that the small community is the place for rearing children and providing healthy living for adults. In too many small communities, however, the residents do not enjoy the same advantages of cultural opportunity that regale our city dwellers. Cortland is a practical demonstration of the good features of the small combined with the good qualities of the large. Here is proof enough that it can be done through cooperation.
Reprinted from: The Ohio Magazine July, 1947