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City council hears of plans to thrive

THRIVING: Cathy Weatherspoon, facilitator for Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County, talks about the Fifth Street Commons project at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Weatherspoon gave a presentation to the council on the collective impact campaign.

BY Spencer Durham - sdurham@chronicle-tribune.com

The Marion City Council heard about an ongoing mission to improve the Grant County community Tuesday evening.

Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County was the only topic on the council’s agenda as Cathy Weatherspoon, facilitator of the Community Foundation project, gave a presentation on the objectives of the project.

A collective impact initiative, Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County aims to boost quality of life throughout the county by forming groups composed of volunteers and members of community organizations. The entire initiative is subdivided into three networks: talent pipeline, community development and family well-being. Those are then broken down into 12 working groups such as Healthy Living, Neighborhood Engagement, Post-secondary Education, Quality of Life and Place, etc.

Weatherspoon, who was hired in July, explained to the council that each group has a more specific focus, that when combined with the efforts of the other groups, will help to build a better county and improve quality of life.

“It’s large scale social change that we’re looking to get involved in,” she said. “And we’re looking to do it through cross-sector coordination rather than isolated intervention of individual organizations.”

Weatherspoon explained a “collective impact model” is best to tackle some of the challenges in the county, such as poverty, instead of isolated and uncoordinated efforts.

“They’re all going in different directions and they’re all concentrating on their own mission of getting where they need to be,” Weatherspoon said as she showed a picture of many boats drifting down one stream representing an isolated impact model

“...What happens a lot of times is you have a lot of duplication, a lack of communication and we’re not reaching maximized impact.”

Weatherspoon then used a picture of a rowing team, multiple individuals working together toward a common goal, to represent a collective impact model.

There are currently 90 volunteers involved with Thriving Families Thriving Grant County, and though she’s thankful for the support she’s received so far, Weatherspoon said hundreds more are needed.

“People are ready for us to do something to improve our community,” she said. “I don’t want to lose the excitement. We can’t work fast enough.”

The project’s facilitator said 10 percent of the county involved with Thriving Families Thriving Grant County would be best for accomplishing the project’s goals.

“I’m only one person,” she said when asked what’s been the most challenging part of the initiative. “That’s where volunteers (are beneficial.)”

Council member Deb Cain is part of the Basic Needs work group and spoke highly of her experience.

“It’s been an eye-opener,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot.”

Weatherspoon said they are still working on filling all 12 groups and listening to what the community wants. There are four groups that have been established, with another five in the works.

Though it has been a work in progress, Weatherspoon said the support the project has received has been widespread including Taylor University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech Community College, General Motors among others.

In the next year, Weatherspoon said she hopes Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County can accomplish some of its more attainable goals such as community gardens and the Fifth Street Commons project. The latter aims to bring life to the parking lot area located at Fifth and Washington streets. The ultimate goal is to turn the space into a multi-purpose area with updated seating and green spaces.

“(I want there to be) a paradigm shift in how we view our community,” Weatherspoon said. “I want to improve quality of life and bring a more positive outlook.”