Citizen Engagement education teaches community leaders and other decision-makers techniques for better engaging residents and other community stakeholders in planning processes and guides project leaders in ways to engage, encourage, and retain these stakeholders to better implement adopted plans. Over the past few years in this Vandergrift community:
- Social media engagement has grown as a community resource and consensus-building asset; catalyzing improved traditional media coverage for the community as additional benefit.
- Two existing and two new elected officials were trained and engage in leadership, multi-municipal planning and project development vis Extension programs.
- Four volunteer groups spun-off of the Vandergrift Improvement Program – a new girl scout troop, the beginnings of a 4-H program, a community par-watch parent association, and a community Children’s Garden committee that as projects renovated an underutilized and vacant greenspace parklet in the center of town into the garden and a better play area.
- A shade tree commission has also formed to oversee and plan for the preservation and enhancement of Vandergrift’s urban community forest.
- A HomeTown Heroes street banner group formed, that as a bonus, strengthened support in general for local firefighter volunteers.
- Three new community businesses began – a youth center, a resale shop for formal wear, and a microbrewery, drawing visitors and dollars from throughout the region, leading to additional engagement of existing businesses.
“The annual arts festival grew in attendance and attraction of both vendors and artists, leading to the creation of an annual holiday vendors market.
The Vandergrift Improvement Program has grown in recognition and impact, becoming a jumping-off point for other groups that take on community projects.”
— Marilee Kessler, VIP Organization Chair