Dan Hunter used to be like many hard workers in his stage of life, “nose to the grindstone.”
He had co-owned a floral business, Cobblestone Cottage and Gardens, for about a decade and had three young kids. His days were mostly going about his business, which was difficult at the time due to three straight years of construction on North Street.
One day, about two years ago, he had a sort of awakening. He attended a pop-up cafe at Diamond Park and he heard a guitarist play a favorite tune, and he stopped to listen.
“I wanted to know why they could go in some places and how cool that was,” he said. He began to think about “all these ideas I had piled up for several years.”
He began to ask around, starting with the Meadville Neighborhood Center, which had inspired him with its pop-ups and a community art project called the Big Zipper. Turns out, all it takes sometimes to make changes is to ask.
“They gave me a chance and they listened,” Hunter said.
Nowadays, whether it is a community potluck, Easter egg hunt, effort to collect stray shopping carts, rooftop concert, poetic evening or if you find a random rose around town, it's likely Dan Hunter was involved.
For “bringing positive energy to this community” is why Palmiero Toyota brought his name forward as a Hometown Hero.
His instrumental role in bringing new activities and community service opportunities to Meadville and the surrounding communities began with what he knows best — flowers. He started placing roses for people to find in the community on Wednesdays.
While he was doing that he started to take notice of other groups, churches and organizations and things they were doing and started joining forces to see what he could do.
“We kept trying stuff and it didn't really matter what, as long as it wasn't harmful,” he said.
One idea led to another. The Wednesday rose hunts led him and others he's joined with to start Thankful Thursdays, which have included cleanup efforts and other service projects.
There have been pumpkin festivals, winter fests, sledding, sunflower planting and more. Fun activities “brought people together and they felt good about where they live,” Hunter said.
To spread the word, he is involved with meadvillecalendar.com and a live video morning show on Facebook with a few of his cohorts.
Not everything Hunter does it lighthearted. His activities extend to causes bringing awareness and support about addiction, overdose and recovery efforts.
Using music and poetry to develop community is another interest that led to Poetic Evenings.
“That's been nearest and dearest to my heart. It brings a lot of people together and lets them share,” he said. “This gives a place for people to say stuff.”
People have taken note of his efforts, even those who may have been reluctant at first. At a picnic a neighbor was not thrilled with the happenings, but a simple act of picking up a yellow napkin left on the man's lawn opened doors. Eventually, that man donated a bag of safety vests he had to help with cleanup efforts.
The ripple effect that led to Hunter getting more involved is what he hopes to pass on to help people realize they have a voice in their community. In a world that can be negative, bringing people together is what turns the tides.
“I want to smash us together,” Hunter said.
To nominate a Hometown Hero, send a brief couple sentences why that person is deserving to email@example.com with “Hometown Hero” in the subject line.