Public explores Strategic Community Impact Plan at open house

November 15, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |
  • James F. Kercheval, left, talks with Bev David, and Dennis Whitmore talks with Stephanie Stone about the 2-1-1 system at the Strategic Community Impact Plan meeting Monday night at Hagerstown Hotel & Convention Center.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON COUNTY — The ballroom at Hagerstown Hotel & Convention Center buzzed Monday evening with hundreds of simultaneous conversations about issues as varied as school achievement gaps, financial exploitation of seniors, domestic violence and arts education.

The room was the site of an open house-style event in which members of the community were invited to explore a new Strategic Community Impact Plan that lays out 44 goals for improving the quality of life in Washington County.

The project was initiated by United Way of Washington County and the Community Foundation of Washington County, and was carried out by more than 200 volunteers working in 11 focus groups.

On Monday, many of those focus group members were on hand to answer questions as event participants “toured” the document station by station, filling in answers to a quiz in a “Passport to Improved Quality of Life.”

“(Fill in the blank) in 10 jobs by 2021 will require postsecondary education/training,” one question asked. Education focus group members supplied the answer — eight — as they discussed the SCIP’s goals to increase the percentage of adults with college degrees and to increase the number of adults who complete formal career- training programs.

Just as important, to SCIP leaders, were the answers to another set of questions in the passport. A slip of paper attached inside the front cover asked participants to check off the ways they would commit to helping achieve the SCIP’s goals. Share information? Join a task force? Provide financial support?

“Our hope is the people who come through here will buy into it and say, ‘Yes, this is where I fit in,’” Community Foundation Executive Director Bradley N. Sell said.

Jennifer Marlatt, a Hagerstown resident studying sociology at Hood College, saw just such an opportunity as she made the rounds Monday.

“I’ve been doing a project trying to learn more about childhood obesity. Is it directly related to aggressive marketing to children?” she said. “I know that (reducing) childhood obesity in the county was an initiative of one of the SCIP groups, so I’d be interested to talk to them and see if the data I’ve collected so far sort of jibes with what they’ve been seeing.”

Jim Davies, a pastor at Bridge of Life church, saw increasing awareness of the 2-1-1 system, a referral line for health and human services, as one goal with which he could get involved.

“If somebody comes knocking on my door (and) they say, ‘I have this need,’ I can say, ‘Oh, I’ll call this number, because I don’t know where to send you,’ and they can give me information on who provides that service,” Davies said.

Leaders of other community organizations praised Monday’s event and the SCIP project in general for helping them better coordinate and cooperate with other organizations.

“It’s like transportation,” said Jim Marshall, president of the board of directors of REACH of Washington County. “Everyone needs volunteer drivers, everyone was doing their own thing, so it’s nice that the community is coming together and trying to reduce duplication of effort.”

Marshall said a new volunteer-matching database recommended in the plan and recently created by Volunteer Washington County is already helping to facilitate that coordination.

Other SCIP recommendations, such as a Housing First program for the homeless and a resource center for small businesses and entrepreneurs, are only in the idea stage and in need of leaders to put them into action, focus group members said.

SCIP organizers are hopeful Monday’s event will help connect some of those ideas with the people who can make them happen.

“It’s not the end; it’s just the beginning,” United Way Community Impact Director Jenny Fleming said. “We need to bring (the SCIP) to life and energize people to take action on the strategies.”

More information about the SCIP is online at

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