Bent County seems to be existing in the shadow of what it used to be. The VA leaving doused the fire that once burned bright in the foundation of our community. However, there is hope, and there are things that are happening underneath the ashes that have the potential to relight that fire once again.

I recently was reading through a booklet for a curriculum that is aimed at helping people evaluate their current situations and creating a pathway to a positive heading — whether it be a successful career or a choice to give up an addictive habit that’s been consuming their lives.

The curriculum is written by a local entrepreneur and his wife who are working hard to promote their work as not only an evidence-based curriculum but also to help improve the lives of anyone who goes through the program. I’ve had numerous conversations with this individual, and it’s amazing to me how positive and optimistic he is. He said to me the other day, “It’s not a matter of if this becomes known; it’s when it will become known — because that’s going to happen.” You may think that that’s a bold statement, but I see it as pure determination, and complete faith in what he is doing.

A new salon (The Beauty Grove) came to Las Animas a while ago, and is run by a young, energetic and talented woman. She’s got a beautiful salon environment, and if you’ve paid attention at all to Facebook, you’ve seen her abilities. This salon proves what’s possible for young people who have a vision and want to make more out of their communities.

There’s another individual who's deeply involved at the Bent County Community Center. He’s accomplished so much in his life, and now, he only wants to positively influence and bring joy, health and a sense of purpose to everyone he meets and works with. He’s working diligently to bring new programs and outreaches to Bent County communities. It’s inspiring to see how many different ways he’s involved in the community and his passion for life. Every time I meet with him, he’s planning another community event, or looking into alternative ways to give people access to what they need to be healthy.

I am working with a number of education professionals to brainstorm ways that we can get more community engagement in our schools, as well as creating a sense of ownership of the community in the hearts and minds of the students who live here. There are teachers who pour their hearts into each and every student who comes to their class. And there are people at all levels of our school districts who make it a priority to ensure that our children are safe in our schools and that they have every chance to go on to be who and what they want to be once they graduate and head off to the “real world.”

Recently, an individual came to my office with an idea of improving one of the facilities in Las Animas, to make it more accessible for more hours of the day, and to provide improvements to the grounds. We discussed looking into a grant, and I will be following up with that over the next few weeks. This individual is a native of Las Animas. Every time I speak to him, he is envisioning improvements and positive change in this community that he so dearly loves. He’s mentioned more than once that he cares less about making changes that will benefit him personally than he does about seeing the fire and passion being restored to the community.

Additionally, there is a new disc golf course coming to town, funded by the Bent County Recreation Board, and located on the Las Animas Bent County Golf Course. There have been a number of individuals involved in funding, designing and installing the course. And during almost every planning meeting, the discussion turns to the importance and excitement of offering something new to the community that is affordable, healthy and accessible. This new community activity also will bring people from out of town to play, which means that they will be filling up with gas, eating and even possibly staying overnight or shopping at our stores.

Here’s my point: There are good things happening in Bent County. Plain and simple. Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t it cool to hear about the fresh ideas and the good efforts that people are making to contribute to our communities?

A peer recently reminded me that great things usually start with very humble beginnings. There are established entities that have been in our community for years and have weathered the hard times while providing jobs and economic stability. They probably started as small operations with a visionary guiding their growth. New businesses and ideas might be small now, but these sparks have the power to ignite that old flame. It will take time, patience and the right ingredients to do so. But it is possible.

We, as a community, have the necessary resources to engage these sparks, and to fan them until they become flames burning bright and drawing others to their light. The question is, will those who have the resources take the initiative? Or will they let these sparks die out, hoping that someone else will come along? What a shame that would be.