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Together, we Thrive

Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County

By Chrysa Keenon | Echo

The Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County initiative is a community-based program to help Grant County evolve. The program partners with members of the Grant County community to create a better environment to live in overall.

The initiative came to be almost two years ago when a group of Taylor students and former political science professor Stephen King researched poverty levels in the Grant County area. According to Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County Executive Director Cathy Weatherspoon, the research showed one out of three children lived in poverty. These statistics shocked many, and people agreed action in the community must be taken to change these statistics.

While intentions were good, the county suffered from isolated impact — efforts for improvement were made by individuals, but no one was working together as a unit to put any large changes in motion. As conversations about the initiative started to take the shape of a solid plan, the next step was to get funding. Since grants would take time to accumulate, the members of the initiative asked local leaders in the community to contribute, and nine of them committed to three years of funding, according to Weatherspoon.

This chart explains the different areas of the Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County initiative. (Photograph provided by Cathy Weatherspoon)

This chart explains the different areas of the Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County initiative. (Photograph provided by Cathy Weatherspoon)

Last March, Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County was officially launched by a two-day seminar about collective impact, which was held at Ivy Tech Community College. It was led by a collective impact consultant from Harvard.

“What ended up happening (is) where initially we thought that we were specifically going to be focusing on children in poverty, because that was the catalyst that got us really upset, what we ended up doing (was) creating a goal to make a community where all families would thrive,” Dawn Brown, executive director of the Community Foundation of Grant County, said.

Thriving Families has since grown in the past three years, such as hiring Weatherspoon and partnering with 70 members of the community along with local businesses to promote their cause. According to Weatherspoon, many grants have been received toward community improvement already, such as $10,000 to help fund Cathy Kerton-Johnson’s community hub, The Place.

According to the Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County graphic, there are three umbrella groups entitled “Family Well-Being Network”, “Community Development Network” and “Talent-Pipeline Network.” Under each, there are 12 working groups, each dedicated to help in various ways to improve the county.

Brown pointed out that, within the initiative, group members are encouraged to have one low-cost idea, one free idea and one pie-in-the-sky big idea. The goal behind this is so members of the community can start a small plan with no or little funds, but when larger funds such as grants become available, the plan for community action will already be laid out.

“I think our community wants something different,” Weatherspoon said. “And me having to articulate that this is a different way of doing things, and it’s not the same thing, that’s encouraging as well. I appreciate the challenge and the accountability that that holds improving as we implement new ideas, and it’s not the same thing, and we’re not doing it the same way.”

Currently, Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County is working on a few projects, including revitalizing the downtown area of Marion and planning a conference in April to train and teach child care providers for local daycares.

Weatherspoon pointed out that all families and community members across Grant County are welcome to participate in the Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County program. The goal of the initiative is to impact and improve the county as a whole, not just the city of Marion. Anyone living in the area can get involved and participate in this, including students.

“It’s not my idea, not your idea, (but) our idea,” Brown said.

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