DIXON – Community leaders throughout the Sauk Valley wanted to do something to bring people together during a time when so many are at odds.
More than 20 organizations have joined to be part of Sauk Valley Unites, a non-partisan partnership calling communities to come together to seek common ground and discourage polarization, to advocate for everyone being a good neighbor and community member, and to promote peaceful elections and safeguard the democratic process.
"Many of us have had this growing concern on the polarization in society," Sauk Valley Community College President Dave Hellmich said.
It seems that the loudest, most extreme voices are the ones getting the most attention, especially during a turbulent build-up to Tuesday's election, and there needs to be more focus on the quiet majority seeking common ground, he added.
The group is hosting its first Unity Walk from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday in three areas.
One will take place at Waterworks Park in Morrison. Another will begin at Dale Park in Sterling and travel the First Avenue bridge into Rock Falls, turn left on East Second Street, walk to the pedestrian bridge, across the pedestrian bridge to the Dillon Home, and left on Second back to Dale Park. The third will be at the Dixon riverfront.
"We want to show that we can all come together and peacefully assemble," said Lori Cortez, dean of institutional advancement at Sauk.
Participants are asked not to wear political clothing or bring signs. It's about community solidarity, not electioneering.
"Part of being a good neighbor is being respectful, and that goes beyond the election process," said Jeremy Englund, executive director of the Dixon Chamber of Commerce and Main Street.
There's a growing divide among the people, online and out in the community, and it won't stop with the election, said Rebecca Munoz-Ripley, executive director of the YWCA of the Sauk Valley.
"What we're seeing is the fabric of our community erode, and that's scary," she said. "Everyone has experienced stress and anxiety. It's been a very long year, and we need this more than ever." If we don't start being proactive, it's going to get worse."
The walk is free and open to anyone. Participants can register or find more information at www.saukvalleyunites.us
"We want to emphasize and re-emphasize that we're going together as a group with a positive, peaceful voice," said Bishop Michael Cole, pastor at The Worship Center in Dixon.
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