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The United States Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, has recently drawn attention to a silent crisis affecting our society: the loneliness epidemic. This alarming trend is not just about a lack of social connections but points to a deeper issue – a void in our collective sense of community and belonging. The digital age, while connecting us in unprecedented ways, has paradoxically eroded the essence of true community.

Moreover, concerns have been raised at congressional hearings about the role of social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter in exacerbating societal issues, particularly affecting the mental health of younger generations. I want to go beyond just reiterating these concerns and instead propose a tangible, community-driven solution to counteract the loneliness epidemic. Loneliness, as highlighted by Murthy, is a significant public health issue with wide-reaching implications on our mental and physical well-being. It’s a condition transcending age, race, and socioeconomic status, necessitating urgent action to mitigate its impact.

A simple yet profound step towards addressing this issue is to deepen our engagement with community organizations. My proposal is to join one new membership organization every year for the next five years. I’m talking about local organizations that have a significant in-real-life membership aspect such as monthly or weekly gatherings. Such organizations offer invaluable opportunities for connection, learning, and personal growth. They serve as platforms for individuals to break out of isolation, meet new people, and participate in activities that foster a sense of belonging and purpose.

The benefits of this engagement extend beyond personal enrichment; they contribute to the vitality of our communities. Membership organizations play crucial roles in providing support systems and facilitating civic engagement. In times of declining membership and challenges to their relevance, new members can inject life into these essential community assets, ensuring their longevity and impact.

This initiative is more than a remedy for loneliness; it’s a strategy for building a more connected, stronger society. By embracing this collective effort, we confront the isolation epidemic and promote the well-being of our communities.

Petaluma is full of great membership organizations such as the Toastmasters, Petaluma Woman’s Club, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Moose, Hermann Sons, Elks, 20/30 Club etc. There are other not-so-obvious membership groups such as gardening clubs, choirs, rowing and kayak clubs, maker spaces, and artist collectives like Life on Art, the Magic Studio, and Slough City Studios. Other organization such as Cool Petaluma, Blue Zones Project Petaluma, Petaluma Conversations and the Village Network also offer great ways of connecting with neighbors and other community member. These all offer wonderful ways of building new friendships.

Reflecting on the Surgeon General’s report, it’s clear that healing lies in rekindling our community spirit, eroded in the digital era. This op-ed is a call to action—an invitation to join a movement toward a future marked by greater connection and community.

The power of community to transform lives is immense. By committing to this journey, we can reverse the tide of loneliness, fostering stronger connections and a healthier society. With urgency and a sense of communal duty, a growing group of people, including myself, has committed to joining one local organization each year for the next five years, focusing on real-life participation. This commitment proposal extends to all Petaluma residents, challenging us to join forces in community clubs, groups, and organizations that unite us in purpose, creating a more connected, trusting community with high social capital.

This is not just a personal commitment but a collective experiment with the potential to transform our community from within. By embracing this challenge, we’re not only fighting loneliness but also fostering a Petaluma that thrives on genuine connections, collaboration, and shared experiences. This is our chance to show the power of community in tackling today’s challenges.

Let us embark on this journey together, with open hearts and minds, toward a future where everyone feels valued and connected. This commitment is a testament to our collective well-being and the spirit of our community. Let us not only make Petaluma a beacon of social connectivity and engagement, let’s help spread this idea to other communities.

John Crowley

Clubs to Join

If there are other organizations, with a significant in-real-life membership element, that should be included in the list below please LMK.


Petaluma Woman’s Club
Hermann Sons
20/30 Club

Petaluma Gardening Club
Petaluma Song Circles
North Bay Rowing Club
Rivertown Racers

Life on Art
Magic Studio
Slough City Studios

Cool Petaluma
Blue Zones Project Petaluma
Petaluma Conversations
Village Network