Sunday, September 16, 2012
Community improvement is a lot like home improvement. You decide on a project, talk to experts, make a plan, line up a crew, gather your tools and block out time to get the job done. Then you roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Community improvement is what Community Council is all about.
The Walla Walla Valley has many things going for it. One of them is that those who live and work here are eager to maintain and enhance the quality of life for the benefit of all. That is what originally led to the formation of Community Council.
Community Council’s study process is a unique tool in our community improvement toolbox. It brings people together to address issues that affect the area between Burbank and Dayton, from the Snake River to Milton-Freewater.
Using a study-action model that is based upon group learning, consensus building and collaboration, a volunteer committee explores the roots of issues, analyzes what it learn and decides what should be done to improve the situation. Then it works with community and government leaders to implement positive changes.
There is a role for everyone. Age differences, diverse backgrounds and unique life experiences enrich the process. Broad geographic representation increases the likelihood that the outcomes are appropriate for the region and will be implemented.
Since its formation in 2008, Community Council has served as a catalyst for action in our region. Following are just a few examples of what the study process has helped to achieve during that time.
Accessibility to Walla Walla County’s Department of Human Services has improved. There is more operational transparency and accountability. A new bus route offers stops at DHS every half hour, as well as at hospitals and health-care facilities throughout Walla Walla and College Place.
Hospital administrators and health-care professionals are coming together to explore options to meet local needs for psychiatric services.
Three cutting edge Walla Walla programs — the Early Learning Coalition, Student Health Options and the Children’s Resiliency Initiative — were in the formative stages at the time of the 2008-09 study and have blossomed since the study report was issued.
Representatives of each effort participated on the study committee and utilized the study’s research to support their community education efforts, funding requests, and strategic planning.
The Value-Added Agriculture task force facilitated an exchange of information that contributed to the re-establishment of a Small Business Center in Walla Walla (serves Walla Walla and Columbia counties).
While working on specific recommendations, the Reducing Gang Membership through Prevention task force is laying the groundwork for the establishment of a regional body to carry forward gang prevention efforts.
It is now time to start another study cycle, and everyone is encouraged to take part. Beginning Sept. 26, the study committee will spend the lunch hour (noon to 1:30 p.m.) each Wednesday with the new topic, “Improving Communication among Citizens and Government.”
Come learn, add to your network, share your ideas and help strengthen communication among citizens and government in our region. Success of the study process depends upon public involvement. It is what you make it — your reward will be knowing you have played a role in enhancing the community.
Become involved in the process and you will be hooked!
Julie Reese is executive director of Community Council and can be reached at 509-529-0119 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available at www.wwcommunitycouncil.org.