WARSAW — About 50 people attended the first in a series of “Hometown Chats,” aimed at drawing out a list of ways to improve their communities.
The first meeting was held at the offices of Kosciusko County Community Foundation in Warsaw. Ten other meetings are planned in communities outside of Warsaw.
The Community Foundation was awarded a planning grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., as part of the endowment’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow VII initiative. The planning grant enables the Community Foundation to deepen its understanding of issues related to housing, childcare, workforce development and more.
“If we can identify a very compelling issue, opportunity (or) challenge for our community, we have a chance to apply for a grant for $5 million by March 2020,” said Suzi Light, executive director for the Community Foundation. “Your input is critical, not only for this $5 million opportunity — your input helps drive our work at the community foundation.”
A group discussion identified what people liked about Warsaw. There was no shortage of strengths as people pointed to the lakes and the orthopedic industry. Others said they feel fortunate to have solid educational options and a general sense of safety in their neighborhoods.
The focus then shifted to look at ways to improve the community.
Dozens of ideas were tossed out, but there were three general concerns that stood out. Those included housing affordability, the need for childcare services and workforce preparation.
A spokesperson for the foundation said they had already met with community leaders who offered their visions of what might be needed. Input from Thursday night’s meeting confirms some of what leaders told the foundation earlier.
More specifically, attendees threw out other ideas. A doctor said he thinks the community would benefit from a free health clinic.
Some suggested there needs to be something to benefit youths who are not involved in athletics. One person suggested something like Fort Wayne’s Science Central.
But much of the talk focused on the three core concerns, which are shared by many small towns.
After the multi-town tour is complete, organizers will draft a final report later this year that looks at ideas raised at the meetings.
Each of the 94 foundations in Indiana has been invited to participate in the grand competition. Efforts to secure as much as $5 million is expected to be highly competitive among the foundations.
Other scheduled “chat” meetings include:
6 p.m. July 17 at the Pierceton Community Building, 105 W. Walnut St., Pierceton.
6 p.m. July 18, at Syracuse Community Center, 1013 N. Long St., Syracuse.
6 p.m July 23 at North Webster Community Center, 301 N. Main St., North Webster.
6 p.m. July 30 at Silver Lake Lions Club, 108 N. Harrison St., Silver Lake.
6 p.m. Aug. 8 at Milford Community Building, 111 S. Main St., Milford.
6 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Mentone Town Hall, 201 W. Main St., Mentone.
Details on other meetings for Etna Green, Leesburg and Claypool have not been announced.