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Communities are defined from within, not from without. To assume an external body knows more than those who make up a community is a fatal error in building healthy communities. Communities may form around “place”, “culture”, “economics”, “common circumstances” and/or “common vision of life”.

In the “Neck” area of Charleston, SC, a community was defined by the need to address industrial pollution that was invading the homes in a seven mile section of the northern approach to the city. Members of this community lived with unpleasant fumes from factories processing chemicals, and lived in constant fear of the alarm signaling an accident that might pose a risk to the public’s health.

Another example of community in Charleston is the Jewish community. Members come from all areas of the city and county, and they are joined by the common belief, culture and values of an age-old religion.

Yet another Charleston community is that of the gays and lesbians, who define their community by their sexual preferences and behaviors.

These are all valid communities, each with assets, resources, and needs.