HomeTown Partnership has committed to seven focus areas of a Healthy Community. This concept brings together qualitative and quantitative information on the well-being of the county, as well as the experience of the Partner organizations and its local volunteers. The result is this informational series that will be published in seven installments over the next year. It lays out a strategy for long-term improvement in the community and provides a guide for working towards it through philanthropic investment.
Central to the Healthy Community concept is the recognition that the challenges facing the community often touch on more than one area.
Donors’ giving strategies can do the same. A strategic gift can speed multiple improvements with one innovative approach – expanding job prospects by funding education, reducing discrimination by funding the arts or improving health by funding neighborhood projects. The strategies listed in this series aren’t definitive. They are simply opportunities you may use to explore how your investment of your time, talent and treasures can build a better community.
A Healthy Community
• Provides broad access to arts and culture
A healthy community encourages a wide variety of recreational, historical, and cultural opportunities.
• Meets the basic needs of residents
A healthy community creates a compassionate social, economic, and political environment where people have full opportunities to meet basic needs for themselves and their families, to build assets, and to advance themselves.
• Ensures a vibrant and diversified economy
A healthy community fosters an economy that is diverse, vital and innovative, that grows strong businesses and business districts, and creates adequate jobs and income for residents.
• Creates quality education and learning opportunities for all ages
A healthy community opens themselves to new ideas and provides high quality education and life-long learning for all members of the community.
• Protects and stewards the natural environment
A healthy community helps preserve and sustain the environment.
• Fosters strong and connected neighborhoods and communities
A healthy community assures equal opportunities to participate in decision making and enhance diversity, promoting a sense of pride and shared purpose.
• Promotes health and wellness
A healthy community assures access to high quality health services on a personal, community and systems level and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
One of the Seven Elements of a Healthy Community
What we we’re doing now:
The Thornapple Arts Council (TAC) is celebrating its 26th year of bringing arts and culture to Barry County. The organization was founded in 1985 by John Fehsenfel, Sue Drummond, and a group of dedicated lovers of the arts.
With an eye to the future, the Thornapple Arts Council Board of Directors recently updated its Strategic Plan. Thoughtfully considering where the organization has been and carefully planning where it is going, the board is committed to three goals:
1. Reconnect with artists: Barry County is home to a wealth of artistic talent, and the Thornapple Arts Council board and staff are working toward engaging the artists in our community. TAC is working toward cultivating and expanding relationships, as well as advocating for artists and the arts.
2. Serve as a clearing-house for Barry County arts information and programming: Thornapple Arts Council seeks to build connectivity among other groups and organizations that provide arts and cultural programming and activities in Barry County. The goal is for TAC to be the “go-to” organization for information about arts and culture in Barry County.
3. Focus on signature programs across Barry County: The Thornapple Arts Council is the host of wonderful events throughout each year, and TAC board and staff are working toward building on that success with well-recognized events in each community in Barry County. Just as the Jazz Festival in Hastings and Art on the Lawn in Nashville are signature events for the Thornapple Arts Council, TAC is working to develop that kind of programming throughout the county.
Tackling the issues of food, housing and homelessness
How are we doing?
Access to nutritious food
Over the last 4 years, the number of households receiving food assistance through the Department of Human Services has skyrocketed from 10% of Barry County households to 25.5% in January of 2011. The average qualified household receives $271.71 per month or $67.92 per week in the form of a bridge card. This certainly helps but it can be difficult to feed a family within these confines.
Promising Strategies that work:
Internet access to Bridge card application at www.michigan.gov/DHS – How do I apply for food assistance?
Fresh Food Initiatives throughout Barry County provide residents with free food on a weekly /biweekly/or monthly basis. These are non qualifying programs – If you need food, you qualify.
MSUE Food Nutrition Program – nutritional education for food assistance eligible families to empower healthy food choices and to better manage their food dollars
How can you get involved?
Have a food or paper drive with your friends, neighbors, co-workers and donate the items to a Fresh Food Initiative or Food Pantry near you – call Barry County United Way for an entire list.
Learn about the MIACCESS website and how your church or organization can help people determine their eligibility for state assistance.
Volunteer at one of the many food assistance sites in Barry County.
Make a contribution to the Food Bank of South Central Michigan – designate Barry County – now through April 30, 2011 a 10% match will be made by the Feinstein Foundation.
What is the Economic Development Alliance?
Mission: Utilizing a progressive approach the Barry County Economic Development Alliance will create an environment for the retention and expansion of business and industry in Barry County consistent with preservation of the rural quality of life.
While building on an environment that preserves, attracts and promotes business growth in Barry County, the Barry County Economic Development Alliance (Alliance) Supports businesses and communities to accomplish growth objectives by providing specialized services, educational programs and access to a broad array of economic development resources.
Retaining existing employers and jobs is key to building a strong local Economy and the Alliance places emphasis on business and entrepreneurial growth. In the effort to enhance business growth readiness, the Alliance works closely with partner organizations including MI Works! for Employer resources, the Small Business & Technology Development Center providing expertise in small business development, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for industry growth plans and other regional and statewide resources specifically tailored to meet business needs. In partnership with the Barry County Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance offers free business counseling services as a SCORE branch office.
Entrepreneurs have multiple local support services to tap into including SCORE, the BIZ! Business resource center located at the Hastings Public Library for reading and research materials and the Barry County MSU-Extension Office for Innovation Counseling through the MSU-Product Center specializing in agri-business.
Professional staff will assist in developing strategies, connecting resources and building networks to achieve objectives resulting in new business development and economic growth. Contact Alliance President Valerie Brynes at 269.945.2454 for more information.
Fostering an environment to support early learning, school-aged children and lifelong learning
Healthy Communities benefit from “womb to tomb” education. Lifelong learning starts when a baby is born and can continue through old age; vibrant communities strive to offer learning opportunities to its residents of all ages. Parents are the first “teachers” and should get their children involved at an early age to work with not only knowledge-based learning but also with motor skills to insure that they are ready to begin the K-12 school process. At that step, K-12 school districts need to be able to offer an educational program that will allow students to have a variety of experiences to make them “well rounded” individuals by the time they exit the K-12 system. Post-graduation opportunities in Barry County can involve education, work, or a number of extra-curricular opportunities that not only help with lifelong learning concept, but also let individuals become more involved in their communities. To insure that this concept is effective, parents, schools, and the entire community must work together to make sure that educational opportunities for all ages are important and necessary to make Barry County thrive.
An Abundance of natural areas in Barry County offers residents a rural lifestyle with varied opportunities for outdoor recreation and enjoyment of nature. Of course the county’s 576 square miles, 46% is agricultural land, 28% forest, 12% water and wetlands, and 8% open land. Commercial and industrial lands account for less than 5% of the total, and more of the county’s acreage is wetland area than residential. This diverse natural environment not only provides human residents a healthy quality of life, but also supports a multitude of plant and animal species and some of the most diverse inland bird populations in the Lower Peninsula.
Our environment offers sustenance and rejuvenation. In a rural area, it is something we value and all too often take for granted. Environmental stewardship is critical to the long-term sustainability of our natural resources. Educating ourselves and others and proactively protecting the environment means it will be preserved for future generations. Our actions have consequences for and impact climate change, the spread of invasive species, preservation of land, and natural spaces.
In a healthy community, neighbors support each other, enjoy a high quality of life, and reap the benefits of being connected. People with strong community ties remain healthier and more stable which allows them to thrive in school or at work. Neighbors connect at fence rows, across fields, while visiting attractive parks, at school sporting events, and at other community gathering places.
Neighborhoods and communities allow regular contact with like-minded people which provides a network of emotional and material support. Depending on one’s neighbors – whether borrowing or lending items, watching one another’s homes, pets, and children, or assisting during challenging times – builds on community. Barry County communities, while not always geographically close, are strengthened by diverse people and ways of life: the elderly and the young, single people and families, apartments and houses, businesses and residents.
People believe they can make a difference in civic life and come together around shared local issues and concerns.
- Orangeville Township, in the southwest corner of Barry County, is a shining example of what a group of neighbors can accomplish with a shared vision. With their township hall as their center, they have created a playground, ball fields, a disc golf course, and continue their annual successful Orangeville Days. Join them on Labor Day for their annual Orangeville Bridge Walk and experience their motto, “Coming Together With Community Pride”.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters join youth and mentors together, creating relationships across generations that might not otherwise exist. In Delton Kellogg and Maple Valley School Districts, high school students serve as BIGS to elementary LITTLES.
- Charlton Park, Bernard Museum, Bowen Mills, and other local history centers serve as connections to the rich past of Barry County’s settlers.
- Thornapple Arts Council and community theatres across the county provide cultural activities where neighbors join together.
Issues that face Barry County are not necessarily unique to Barry County, but inherent to a rural community. Issues such as transportation, access to health care, jobs, and healthy foods become more apparent when there are not as many mass transit systems and populations are spread through a rural versus a metropolitan area.
Healthy Communities start at home. The habits that we learn as kids influence our health for a lifetime. Out of 82 counties in Michigan, Barry County is ranked is ranked 70thout of 82 counties in Michigan for health behaviors, 25th for Health Outcomes (Mortality & Morbidity), 14th for Social & Economic factors, 57th in Clinical Care, and 70th for Health Behaviors Barry County (Data provided through countyhealthrankings.org.)
The goal of the Health and Wellness strand of Home Town Partners is to educate and improve the overall health of our community. This is accomplished through collaboration of business, healthcare, education, government, public health, grant makers, and the community at large to evaluate the data and determine the priorities.
Community health is much more than physical health. Physical health is a product of our health behaviors, physical environment, access to clinical care, and social and economic influences.
“At this time, the Health and Wellness strand is at step 3…”
The model being followed for the Barry County Community Health Assessment is recommended by the American Hospital Association and ACHI, which includes:
Step 1: Establishing the Assessment Infrastructure
Step 2: Defining Purpose and Scope
Step 3: Collecting and Analyzing Data (We are here)
Step 4: Selecting Priorities
Step 5: Documenting and Communicating Results
Step 6: Planning for Action Monitoring Progress