W I N T E R 2 0 0 9 N E W S L E T T E R
ALLIANCE ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2009
As 2009 comes to an end, the Alliance reviews its reach into communities through the year and the accomplishments we have helped you achieve. “I’d like to thank each one of you for your contribution to your community in 2009,” said Marcel Fortin, Alliance Executive Director. “Keep up the good work!”
As 2009 began, 41 teams (more than 200 people) were working hard to complete projects funded by the Community Technology Minigrant program. This was the second year the Claude Worthington-Benedum Foundation provided funds for the Technology Minigrants. In all, the program provided $367,471 for 75 projects in 37 West Virginia counties.
At the celebration event in April, each team presented their project and took questions from the audience. Organizations could see the value in what the presenters were saying. Discussions took place throughout the room on how projects could be replicated in other communities. “The excitement level continued from the first presentation – In Car Camera by the St. Mary’s Police Department – through the final – Mason County Website by Main Street Point Pleasant,” said Mr. Fortin.
Reports on the technology minigrant projects are posted on the Alliance website. “We at the Alliance are so pleased to administrate a valuable program that brought technology into use in new ways in so many communities,” said Mr. Fortin. “We are devoted to increasing access and adoption of technology tools to help our communities grow.”
Aside from the obvious benefits of the technology projects, the minigrant process helped to develop the leadership and mentoring skills of the project team members. “Collaboration is taking place,” explained Mr. Fortin. “Ideas are being shared and team members are anxious to be mentors to others seeking to replicate their projects in other communities.”
SMALL COLLEGES NETWORKING
After holding a successful small colleges forum in 2008, the Alliance is in the planning stages for a 2010 symposium that will examine the relationship between colleges and their host communities. “We believe that colleges are a wonderful resource,” said Mr. Fortin. “By bringing college management, scholars, and community leaders together, we hope to identify and foster a meaningful discussion of issues that will enhance the collaboration of colleges and their host communities.”
This effort will begin with a survey process in early 2010. Please watch the Alliance website for updates. “If you are living in a community with a college or university, working at a college or university, or attending one as a student,” began Mr. Fortin, “I invite you to participate with development of this important symposium. Give me a call to share your ideas at 304-756-2264.”
By working with One Economy, Inc. (OEC), the Alliance continues to focus on bringing 21st Century tools to rural communities in West Virginia. Since opening in 2000, OEC has worked to maximize the potential of technology to help low-income people improve their lives and enter the economic mainstream. OEC has established a series of ‘Beehive’ websites in communities across four continents to provide resource information on important topics including: health, jobs, money, schools, and family.
The Benedum Foundation funded creation of a Beehive site for West Virginians and introduced Sonja Murray, Senior Vice President of OEC, to Mr. Fortin. “We were able to get our project going very quickly because Mr. Fortin from the Alliance introduced us to the Family Resource Networks (FRNs),” explained Ms. Murray. “The Alliance helped us identify communities in West Virginia that are engaged in expanding technology and are investing in making technology available to their citizens.”
The new website, wv.thebeehive.org works like contextual yellow pages with information sorted by topic and zip code. Site visitors are able to quickly find relevant local resources. If the resource has its own website, a link is provided.
“The Alliance is very pleased to assist OEC and other organizations that put technology to work for the benefit of West Virginia residents,” said Mr. Fortin. “We look forward to the increasing role of technology.”
A SOURCE OF INFORMATION
“We started 2009 with a commitment to be an active information resource for our members,” said Mr. Fortin. “The new website was part of an overall marketing program which also included developing a membership database, publishing a quarterly newsletter, and printing an updated brochure.”
The process for developing a new website required collecting information about member communities, partners, and each active project. It took about 60 days to compile the data, photography and link information and conduct site testing. “The new website has put relevant information in a very easy to find format for our members,” said Mr. Fortin. “I encourage everyone to explore the website and send me any information you would like to add.”
The quarterly newsletter is published using email to a database of more than 700 subscribers. “The subscriber list has doubled since the beginning of the year,” said Gwen Hagaman, Alliance Marketing Director. The purpose of the newsletter is to update members on important issues, provide them with helpful information, and recognize the good work being done.
“If you are one of our Partners, Members, or Communities, we at the Alliance wish you a very happy holiday season and a prosperous 2010,” said Marcel Fortin, Alliance Executive Director.
HELP OTHERS FIND THE ALLIANCE WEBSITE
In January 2009 the Alliance launched a new website at www.AllianceWV.org. Immediately doubling the traffic levels, the new website has provided relevant information to more than 5,000 people during 2009. You can help the Alliance continue to grow by linking from your organization’s website. The logo shown will appear on the webpage where you make the link, showing your organization is an Alliance Partner.
The site was designed by Gwen Hagaman of G. H. Bailey Company in Queen Shoals, and maintained by Steve Reynolds of Contois Reynolds Studio in Hamlin. “The Alliance asked me to design a website that would give credit to people working in their communities and provide them with additional resources to continue their work,” explained Ms. Hagaman. “When you visit you will find stories about individual projects, people who will share their experience, news items relating to ongoing issues, and opportunity to provide feedback or discuss an issue with other Alliance members. Statistics show that people are looking at a wide variety of pages across the site and checking the calendar frequently.”
Information is provided regarding projects undertaken by the Alliance and everyone involved. “We have provided links from our website back to the organizations working in their communities who have websites,” said Marcel Fortin, Alliance Executive Director. “And now we are asking our members and partners to help us reach into more communities by linking from your website as an Alliance Partner. If you have a website that you would like to add as a resource for Alliance members, send us a link request using our feedback link. The more we share, the more we grow.”
“Having links from other websites improves the search engine ranking, allowing the Alliance website to be found more easily by people looking for information it provides. It’s easy to make this link,” explains Webmaster Steve Reynolds. “Just click on Link to AllianceWV.org from any page of the Alliance website and follow the directions provided. If you get confused, send me an email from the instruction page and I will help you accomplish the link.”
MEET BOB JOHNSON
Currently serving as Executive Director of the Sheltered Workshop of Nicholas County, Inc. (SWNCI), many of us know Robert C. “Bob” Johnson as a past Mayor and advocate of the City of Richwood. He operates a small consulting firm called ATCS Company. His calm demeanor and persistent follow through are strong assets in his lifetime career of community service.
The SWNCI, located in Craigsville, was founded in 1979 to provide jobs and job training for rehabilitation of disabled workers, and for developmentally disabled workers. “There are 25 similar facilities across the state,” explains Mr. Johnson. “Most of our workers are disabled adults. Many work at our facility but some work in outside locations, such as state agencies or commercial office buildings.”
The Nicholas County facility employs about 75 people and produces over $1 million in annual sales. Products they manufacture and services they provide include:
- Absorbent products for containment of oil
- Chair caning and rush
- Cloth wipes
- First aid and CPR classes
- Gift bows
- Wood products such as crates, pallets, stakes, and firewood
- Mass mail processing services
- Document shredding
- Silk screening services
- Banners, signs and labels
- Soaps and dispensers
- Bottled water and water coolers
- Woven rugs
“I find my position at SWNCI very gratifying,” said Mr. Johnson. “Our workers show their appreciation every day with big smiles.” For information about purchasing from or supporting SWNCI call 800-404-0053 or visit www.swnci.org.
Mr. Johnson served two terms as Mayor of the City of Richwood. Just prior to his first term (1988 to 1992) federal revenue sharing with municipalities had ended. “I had the unpleasant task of adjusting the city budget after losing a great deal of funding,” said Mr. Johnson. “Deep cuts had to be made in spending, including cutting the city’s staffing.”
During his second term (2000 to 2004) Mayor Johnson led a Project Good Start to evaluate the city’s assets, needs and citizen priorities. “We were able to form citizen-led committees to begin working on some of our priority needs,” said Mr. Johnson. “I was pleased to see so much interest and support from the community.”
“Just after my first term as Mayor, the USDA was holding community organization meetings at the Cowen Town Hall for people around Webster Springs and Richwood,” recalled Mr. Johnson. “The census tract areas around Webster Springs and Richwood shared similar poverty levels, transportation and terrain issues. So we decided to group together and became the Mountain Champion Community First organization.” Some contributors to the effort were Dr. Stanley Anderson, Geary Weir, Sue Talbott, John Reed, and members of the Main Street organization.
“We were able to participate with a Benedum mini-grant program which provided $2,000 grants to more than 100 community projects,” explained Mr. Johnson. Many different types of projects were funded, such as road signage, a press box at the high school ball field, hospital equipment, and supplies for community emergency shelters. Mountain Champion Community First administered the grants, 10 training sessions and two celebration events.
“We had a grand time,” said Mr. Johnson. “People were really pleased with what they were able to accomplish by leveraging the $2,000. More than 500 people were involved and empowered to work for their communities.”
Jerry Sizemore, Betty Crookshanks, Marcel Fortin, Jim Anderson, Jerry Edens, and others from emerging Champion Communities began meeting in Flatwoods for planning sessions, strategy, and updates on progress in each community. “A decision was made to continue getting together and we formed the Alliance of WV Champion Communities,” said Mr. Johnson.
As Vice Chairperson of the Alliance, Mr. Johnson joined in celebration events for the Community Technology Mini-grant Programs in 2007-09. “I thoroughly enjoyed the celebration event in Preston County last April,” said Mr. Johnson. “It’s exciting to see how people are able to use relatively small amounts of money to do substantial things in their communities.”
Mr. Johnson holds a degree in Public Service Administration from WVU Institute of Technology. He served as a Communication Technician in the U.S. Navy. He serves on numerous community boards and committees.
Mr. Johnson resides in Richwood with his wife Deloris. They have two daughters and two grandchildren. Their daughter and son-in-law, Michelle and Karl Brewer, and grandchildren Russell (12) and Rachel (6) live in the Washington, DC area. Their youngest daughter, Marissa is an Accounting major at Fairmont State University. “I spend a lot of time with the Church and its projects,” said Mr. Johnson, who is the relief Organist and rotating Lay Pastor for Richwood Presbyterian Church.
Bob Johnson is pleased to share his experience and advice with anyone looking to help their community with an idea or a project. He can be reached at 304-846-4905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alliance publishes this newsletter to keep you informed of special projects, opportunities and current events to help you enhance your community. Your feedback and contributions are always welcome at email@example.com. To continue receiving this newsletter, please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your address book or safe list to prevent message rejection by your spam filter. If you feel that you have received this e-mail by mistake and would like to be removed from this mailing list, simply unsubscribe. ©2009 The Alliance, all rights reserved.