Local Nonprofit Seeks to Improve Life for Residents and Visitors Alike
Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Good things can happen when people work together. Bremen Community Cares is one of those good things.
What six local women started in 2016 to help beautify the downtown streets has grown into an economic development tool for the community, says Bremen Community Cares President Matt VanSoest.
He graduated from Bremen High School in 2004. It is, he says, “exciting to come back to the area and lead this initiative.”
VanSoest is one of about 20 volunteers who tackle a variety of projects that benefit the Bremen community. Those projects can be decorating for the holidays or the seasons of the year, planning events, or taking on rehabilitation projects that provide a benefit to the town.
One of the beautification projects completed in 2021 is a corner space at the intersection of State Road 106 and State Road 331. This space has a multitude of uses such as advertising events, providing seasonal displays or simply adding some welcoming green space to replace an abandoned gas station.
Seeing an active downtown that is healthy and vibrant sends an important message to a potential new resident or new business. Bremen’s selection by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs as one of the designated Indiana Main Street towns in 2016 encouraged the establishment of Bremen Community Cares. It is possible, VanSoest says, to expand on the quality of life that Bremen already offers, and improve on amenities for current and future residents.
The Indiana Main Street program focuses on the revitalization and preservation of historic downtown areas. Being named as an Indiana Main Street town is seen as a way of boosting the economy. Beautification is one pillar of the Main Street designation. Another is community involvement and public policy regarding events, how people utilize the town center, as well as improvements and initiatives.
“The thought process of Bremen Community Cares is to continue to give back to downtown, to attract people to live, work and play in Bremen,” VanSoest says.
Even something as typically rural as a farmers market can add to the attraction. Bremen Community Cares offers this to the community from May through September.
The creation of the Bremen Community and Performing Arts Center is an ongoing continuing project, VanSoest says. It came about through the rehabilitation of the 150-year-old St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. It has space for artists and a space for health and wellness classes like yoga, tumbling, dance and aerobics. It has an event space too, and the performing arts component was utilized for concerts during the recent holiday season. Residents of all ages will be able to use the space.
One of the challenges of living in a small town is the lack of entertainment and destination options, VanSoest says. The community center is a step forward in creating a town that is energized, and a place people want to live and stay.
Bremen Community Cares is a nonprofit, grass-roots volunteer organization. There are no fancy offices or paid salaries, but there is a strong network of willing volunteers and support from the community. It depends on volunteers, local businesses, partnering organizations, donors and sponsors.
The organization’s social media page advertises community events such as the performance of the community’s children’s choir and holiday events, and it also promotes local businesses and organizations. This inclusivity is also reflected in the volunteers who can range from 3 years of age to senior citizens. They lend their time and efforts for an hour or so, or possibly longer, VanSoest explains.
Bremen’s town motto is “A Good Town,” and Bremen Community Cares is one example of why that motto is true. VanSoest says the town he grew up in has a lot to offer, especially considering its location in the region. Efforts like those undertaken by Bremen Community Cares open this “good town” to a future of potential.
“We are on the doorstep of opportunities within a simple hour’s drive,” VanSoest says.
To find out more about Bremen Community Cares, go to facebook.com/bremencommunitycares.