Diversity, activities build city pride
Saturday, April 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:18 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
From left, Rev. John Baker, Rev. Thomas Saucier, Retired pastor Cleo Kottwitz and Pastor Tom Nordber make one of six stops to pray at the corner or Ninth and University Street at the interfaith peace procession on Saturday, March 10. A group of over 21 religious leaders of all faiths and community members gathered to walk the same route the National Socialist Movement plans to march later the same day.

What makes people proud of their community?

For Columbia resident Bob Pund, it would be improved accessibility for disabled residents.


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“Overall, Columbia does a good job of accommodating for the disabled,” he said. “Columbia is easier to move around (in), compared to St. Louis or Jefferson City.”

Still, Pund, who uses a wheelchair, would like to see improvements made in the next 25 years. Pund, a political activist, advocates for disability issues at the Capitol in Jefferson City.

Evan Moser is one of many residents who might benefit from the changes Pund would like to see. The 19-year-old wheelchair basketball player said he stopped shopping in some stores in downtown Columbia because “the space was tight” and he couldn’t move around. Moser would like to be able to shop in those stores again.

Businessman Pritesh Patel, who owns Hitt Mini Mart at 111 Hitt St., said the homeless people who gather outside his store and other businesses asking customers for money are another challenge for Columbia. The city needs to address homelessness, he said.

A concern that often gets ignored or overlooked is activities for minority children, said Homer Page, a member of Columbia’s Disabilities Commission. But it’s on the visioning topic group’s radar. The group identified youth as a subtopic and drafted a goal to “promote/develop a central place and create environments that will cultivate responsible citizenship and inclusive behavior among young people,” according to the Imagine Columbia’s Future press kit.

Page suggested that Columbia’s Public Schools get involved by offering free after-school programs and supervision for children until their parents leave work.

“Child care is expensive,” Page said, “and unsupervised children are more prone to get caught up in the wrong activities.”

Patel would also like to see the city’s population become more diverse.

Diversity as a source of community pride is a topic that evokes many points of view, which MU student Jason Kern thinks are necessary to determine whether diversity is already an achievement or a goal for Columbia.

“Everything that I’ve picked up on here in Columbia is that people here are accepting,” the 20-year-old said, “but this could be because I’m on campus.”

Because some of his opinions about the community are formed on campus, Kern said he wonders to what extent MU influences people not affiliated with the university.

“I would think that since MU is such a major institution in Columbia, attitudes on campus are bound to spread,” he said.

Kern said his perspective on Columbia’s acceptance of different cultures and ethnicities may be influenced by his status as a non-minority.

“If I was in a minority group, maybe I would pick up on prejudices,” he said.

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