Community Leaders Focus on Isabella County Needs and Collaboration
The Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) joined forces with the United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 to present a Community Leaders Mini-Conference. Modeling the collaborative behavior both organizations seek to encourage in others, the event focused on the results of an Isabella County Community Needs Assessment and explored potential solutions to address the greatest needs going forward.
In early 2018, MPACF contracted with the Center for Applied Research and Rural Studies (CARRS) at Central Michigan University (CMU) to conduct a random sample needs assessment survey of Isabella County households. CARRS worked with the Community Foundation to develop survey questions with input from many local leaders. Upon completion, 531 households had either participated in an interview over the phone or returned a mailed questionnaire. During the Mini-Conference, Mary Senter, CARRS Director, presented key findings from the assessment. Community members are encouraged to view the full report, as well as an executive summary online.
After hearing the assessment results, Mini-Conference participants split up for deeper conversations about the top two local needs identified. A discussion on “Access to Affordable Health Care” was led by Marita Hattem-Schiffman of MidMichigan Health, Jennifer McNally of Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, Tara Soules of McLaren Central Michigan, and Jennifer White of Isabella Citizens for Health. A discussion on “Jobs that Pay a Living Wage” was led by Craig Clark of Great Lakes Bay Michigan Works, Christine Hammond of Mid Michigan College, Jim McBryde of Middle Michigan Development Corporation, and Erin Strang of CMU Research Corporation.
To wrap up the half-day event, participants reconvened to hear from an ongoing, successful community collaboration among leaders from Barry County, Michigan focused on education and workforce development. Travis Alden of Barry County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Alliance, Lani Forbes of Barry County United Way & Volunteer Center, Bonnie Gettys of Barry Community Foundation, Nancy Goodin of Highpoint Community Bank, and Fred Jacobs of J-Ad Graphics encouraged Isabella County leaders to set goals and make decisions based on facts in order to treat real problems—not just the symptoms of those problems. Panelists talked about keeping the end goals in mind when collaborating, and communicating openly with one another. When asked about how they avoid stepping on one another’s toes, Forbes responded, “We don’t have toes.”
“It doesn’t matter who gets the credit,” Gettys added. “We’re all committed to improving this place we love.”
Amanda Schafer of MPACF and Annie Sanders of UWGIC ended the event by challenging participants to determine next steps for our community and to consider the role each was willing to play to affect change.
MPACF seeks to shape the future of Isabella County by cultivating bold solutions for strong, vibrant, and inclusive communities. UWGIC envisions a strong community where everyone achieves their potential through quality education, financial stability and healthy lifestyles.