One of the best ways of learning is to learn from others. Forward Wayne County did just that with a trip to Muncie, Indiana. While there, representatives visited two organizations that are doing fantastic work in the community. Their work spans from restoring and building houses to general volunteering at different local organizations. They have accomplished a lot in the realm of community development and engagement.
A little background about Muncie. The city is just a little bigger than the largest city in Wayne County. Despite its population being larger than Richmond’s, it has faced and is currently facing a lot of the same problems. Muncie has been a victim of factory closings, drug abuse, and urban blight which are all problems Richmond, and surrounding towns, knows too well. A lot of local organizations have taken it upon themselves to better their city for the future, and they have made great strides in doing that even though it’s been a slow process. Their progress has brought the community of Muncie closer together and has given them a clear goal of what they need to do to continue making a brighter future for residents.
The first organization visited is affiliated with Ball State University. Muncie has the privilege of having the university who has been very active in promoting community development. The Ball State Office of Community Engagement, whose mission it is to better connect the community and the school through the idea of community redevelopment, had a hand in the Building Better Neighborhoods Initiative. The main goal of the initiative is to provide support to local Muncie Neighborhoods by connecting them with Ball State’s vast resources. Through the service they have been able to do neighborhood studies, provide workshops for neighborhood leaders, directly support neighborhoods with community development projects, and holding an annual conference for neighborhood association members. They have been able to compile a vast amount of data on neighborhoods that has been used to help them. One of the main actions they have done is helping the neighborhoods establish neighborhood associations, and identify leadership for those associations. The Office of Community Engagement actively promotes neighborhood pride and helps support neighborhood-focused projects.
The second and last organization we visited has been making great strides in helping and redeveloping neighborhoods. The 8twelve Coalition, whose mission it is to advance the goals and aspirations of residents through planning and action, have a vision to revitalize neighborhoods in Muncie. Their service area encompasses the neighborhoods of South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale, and, to date, a great deal of work has been completed. Spearheaded by the Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity and the Vectren Foundation, the forward-thinking coalition has been able to complete a number of projects. Some of these projects include restoring and building houses, establishing community gardens and pocket parks, tearing down an abandoned factory building, and improving local businesses. The coalition is made up of residents, businesses, and non for profits. The 8twelve Coaltion’s steering committee includes many different community leaders and residents.
Through planning and action, the 8twelve Coalition advances the goals and aspirations of residents.
Our visit to Muncie was very educational and inspiring. We learned a lot about how they have addressed some of the needs in their community and the plan for continued revitalization. Muncie has experienced a lot of the same problems faced by a number of Wayne County areas. The 8twelve Coalition provided a network for businesses and residents to team up for change. Services provided by Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement provided invaluable resources to help get the ball rolling. The work done in Muncie by these organizations can serve as an inspiration to many neighborhoods in the Wayne County area. We just need to get together and figure out how to do that.
What are some resources found in Wayne County that can help with neighborhood improvement? How do you think Wayne County can use examples from other rural areas to fuel community change? Share your thoughts with us! Be sure to tag us in your comments using #forwardINwayne. Keep us in your conversations about community change on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.