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Wow, 2019 was whirlwind year for Forward Wayne County!

Wayne County faces significant and persistent challenges that include declining population, lack of high-skilled employment pool, high percentage of families living in poverty, and low levels of educational attainment. The process to solving these complex and multi-faceted problems will take time, collaborative efforts, and the enrollment of a diverse group of community members. Our goal at Forward Wayne County is to create community level change through collective impact strategies. If we want to make real impact it requires the community and residents to get involved as producers and co-producers of their own community and their community’s well-being.

Forward Wayne County continues to focus on two key pillars: Our People and Our Community and operates as backbone organization.

As a backbone organization our primary responsibility includes:

  • Guiding vision and strategy
  • Supporting aligned activities
  • Establishing shared measurement practices
  • Building public will
  • Advancing policy
  • Mobilizing funding

Forward Wayne County started spring of 2019 by launching our website, social platforms and our community newsletter, from there it was full throttle….

Our People

We created an Employability Coalition with members from Ivy Tech, Indiana University East, Eastern Indiana Works, EDC of Wayne County, local employers and more. The mission of the Coalition is to drive a collaborative and collective effort to move the dial forward on connecting our residents to opportunities and developing our current and future talent.

We began by understanding the current state of the Wayne County workforce by utilizing organized workforce surveys and focus groups. The Coalition took a huge step towards prioritizing workforce development locally by agreeing to become a 21st Century Talent Region and deploying county specific initiatives.

Since its 2017 inception, the Early Childhood Coalition for Wayne County Kids has been working through 250 partners (organizations and individuals) to ensure that our youngest citizens are prepared to enter kindergarten ready for their educational future. During 2019, these efforts were enhanced through a number of grant dollars from various state agencies: $206,000 for four new pre-school classes; $100,000 to support YMCA/Sugar Creek child care partnership; $25,000 to support the transition to kindergarten.

Our Community

Forward Wayne County developed their own branded neighborhood developmentworkshop; Neighborhood Involvement & Community Engagement (NICE!) program. Forward Wayne County aims to build collaborative efforts with our residents across the county to focus on toughest challenges through asset-based community development and collective means. NICE! is just one small piece to solving our county’s challenges.

We also partnered with Earlham for the Earlham EPIC Challenge! This partnership provided a platform for students, faculty, staff and community partners to research and offer solutions to help address ‘wicked local problems’ in Wayne County.

Funding Projects That Support Forward Wayne County’s Mission

Wayne County Foundation’s commitment to Forward Wayne County’s strategy lead to more than $89,000 in grants being awarded to organizations working to advance human capital development and quality of place programs throughout Wayne County. Grantees included:

Cambridge City Main Street – to support the development of a flexible use, multi-faceted Arts and Development Center in the historic Mathias and Kline buildings located on Main Street in Cambridge City.

Centerville-Abington Schools – To expand current preschool offerings with the goal of reducing the number of students needing retention in Kindergarten.

Earlham College – To support the Earlham EPIC Grant Challenge-an incentivized competition structured to develop Earlham-community partnerships that propose solutions to local social and economic problems.

Indiana University East – To support Empower Wayne County, a program that provides exciting learning opportunities for students and a chance for local non-profits to utilize IU East students’ expertise and energy to develop new programs or tackle projects that help move these organizations forward.

Junior Achievement of Eastern Indiana – To expand career readiness programming for high school seniors in Wayne County.

Richmond Neighborhood Restoration – To increase the capital capacity of Richmond Neighborhood Restoration’s Loan Fund for property acquisition.

Forward Wayne County’s 2020 Vision

We are excited about this year! Forward Wayne County is committed to bringing our goals into focus and making every resident’s future bright and filled with opportunities. Visit forwardwaynecounty.org to learn more about what the future holds for this organization.

Be sure to join the conversation using the tag #forwardINwayne. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram @forwardINwayne!

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