Volunteers wanted to help improve life in Washington County

Community Foundation pairs with United Way to examine areas such as health and education

Community Foundation pairs with United Way to examine areas such as health and education

December 16, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A group of community leaders is recruiting volunteers to help formulate a "Strategic Community Impact Plan" that will include measurable goals and strategies for improving the quality of life in Washington County, Bradley N. Sell, executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County, said Wednesday at a Hagerstown Rotary meeting.

The project grew out of a collaboration between the Community Foundation of Washington County and United Way of Washington County, and is modeled after a similar project in Spartanburg, S.C., by a local foundation and United Way there, Sell said.

As part of the project, nine focus groups will meet monthly from March to November of next year to examine areas such as health, public safety and education, and recommend goals and strategies in each, United Way Executive Director Leah Gayman said.

A 39-member Impact Council will select from those goals and strategies to publish the Strategic Community Impact Plan by September 2011, Gayman said.


For example, based on the data available, the health and well-being focus group might recommend a goal of ensuring that children establish good dental health habits early in life. The strategies for achieving that goal could include incorporating child dental health into county parenting programs, teaching dental health at area day cares, and holding annual dental clinics for families living in poverty, she said.

To help identify areas for improvement, focus groups will have access to a wide variety of statistics compiled in 2005 and 2007 in a Community Report Card by a Washington County group called PRIDE, or People Really Interested in Developing Excellence, Sell said.

In developing goals, focus group members will be asked to focus on changes that can be accomplished in five years or less and are realistic, given the culture, resources and politics in the community, Sell said.

"This is why the work of the focus groups could take a while, because there could be some great goals out there, but maybe the resources aren't going to be available, or maybe the political climate isn't going to allow us to achieve that goal," Sell said. "So there's going to be a lot of give and take there in terms of making sure we're putting goals on the table that we think are accomplishable."

In addition, the goals should be changes that make a significant impact and matter to the community, Sell said.

"We want the feedback from the community so that they're going to buy into this and this is going to be something they care about," he said.

Focus groups will be encouraged to model strategies after successful efforts in other communities, Sell said. Strategies should also focus on collaboration between organizations and agencies so that efforts are not duplicated and on leveraging resources so that money is not wasted, he said.

Accountability is another important consideration, Sell said.

"After a couple of years, if we don't start to see some change, we're going to look at it and see, well, was it the strategy that was wrong, or was it the approach of the nonprofit -- why isn't this working?" he said.

The 39-member Impact Council that will finalize the goals and strategies has been selected, and Impact Council members are working to recruit focus group members, Sell said. Project leaders hope to involve more than 300 people on the focus group level, he said.

Anyone interested in serving in a focus group may contact Brad Sell at or 301-745-5210.

SCIP Vision Statement

Strategic Community Impact Plan Vision Statement:

Project leaders developed a vision statement for Washington County, divided into nine focus areas:

o Education: Our children and youth will excel academically.

o Jobs/economic: Our citizens will have access to the education, training and economic means to steadily improve their standard of living.

o Social well-being: Our families will be stable and nurturing.

o Health and well-being: Our families will be physically and mentally healthy.

o Elderly: Our elderly citizens will receive support to enable them to live as independently as possible and connect to their communities.

o Homelessness and hunger: Our citizens will have their basic needs met.

o Public safety: Our community will be safe.

o Arts and culture: Our citizens will have access to and opportunities for recreational, cultural and entertainment events that promote well-being and a better quality of life.

o Civic engagement: Our citizens will have opportunities for civic engagement and volunteerism.

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