HANCOCK COUNTY – Members of the Leadership Hancock County class of 2017-18 plan six community projects for the coming months.

The projects will give members of the tuition-supported leadership academy the opportunity to work in small groups as they take on initiatives designed to better the community, said coordinator David Hill. A four-person project committee considered 20 projects submitted by the class and community members and selected them based on their feasibility and impact, Hill said.

Completing these projects serves as an exercise in teamwork for members of the class to put together their skills and creativity, Hill said.

“I think the projects this year are all really good ones,” he said. “They span a spectrum from health and wellness to education and improving children’s lives, and I think that’s a testament to the projects committee making sure there’s a good representation of subject matter.”

This year’s projects are:

1. Transform the office of Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, a program to encourage young readers, into a more kid-friendly environment. The nonprofit trains dogs and their owners to spend time with children, who read to the dogs to help them build confidence. The program visits classrooms and also works out of an office in downtown Greenfield, especially when school is not in session. The goal of renovating the office is to encourage more young readers to come in after school and during vacations, said Nickie Scott, founder of the program.

“I’d like to put some color, a mural or just painting the walls,” Scott said. “I’m open to suggestions.”

2. Create a pilot program to keep school health offices well-stocked with emergency clothing stores in the event of playground accidents, dress-code issues, bathroom emergencies, etc. The program would begin in Mt. Vernon schools and would be designed to be used in districts countywide. Health offices already collect clothing items for emergency needs, but schools have trouble keeping the stores stocked because the items are rarely returned. Goals include possibly creating a district “clothing bank”; working with organizations to sponsor clothing drives; and appealing to area businesses for donations.

3. Create a Hancock County Debate Commission, which will be a nonpartisan entity that will organize and oversee political debates in key local and regional elections. The Leadership Hancock County team will write by-laws; recruit a board; and hand off responsibility for the debates before the primary election next May.

4. Create a garden with native plants outside the window of the Nature Nook area of the Children’s Department of Hancock County Public Library’s main branch. The garden will be designed to attract wildlife such as birds, bees and butterflies. The Nature Nook of the library was designed in 2015 to bring the outdoors inside with a view finder and interactive displays. A large swath of unused library property nearby also could be developed to attract pollinators and wildlife that would be visible from the children’s area. Children’s librarian Jena Mattix, part of the team tackling the project, submitted the project proposal.

“Everyone at the library is excited to see how it develops,” Mattix said.

5. Start the “5210” program in county public schools. The 5210 program is an educational effort that strives to assist children in making healthier choices. The program educates children to aim for eating 5 fruit or vegetable servings every day; keep recreational screen time to 2 hours or fewer each day; include at least 1 hour or more of physical activity each day; and consume 0 sugar-sweetened beverages while drinking more water every day. The Leadership team will work on rolling out a pilot program to one age level — likely younger students — in one of the school systems. A school will first have to be identified and stakeholders engaged.

6. Revamp the Leadership Hancock County Scavenger Hunt, a key part of the organization’s team-building retreat each fall. The team will be tasked with incorporating technology and social media into the activity to make it more interactive for participants. Possible upgrades include using geocaching or some sort of GPS component to highlight teams’ progress during the hunt. The group also will write a brand-new trivia test.

The groups will present the results of their projects during the class’s graduation on May 2.

THE LIST

Bentley’s Buddies and Friends

Team members: Alex Bush, Medicap Pharmacy; Chris Carter, Hancock Regional Hospital; Cara Fields, Elanco Animal Health; Tracy Sweet, IU Health.

School emergency clothing

Team members: Maria Bond, Mt. Vernon schools; Stephanie Haines, the Daily Reporter; Linda Thakrar, Hancock County Public Library; Stephanie Wilson, Hancock Physician Network.

Hancock County Debate Commission

Team members: Nick Riedman, city of Greenfield; Staci Starcher, town of McCordsville; Diana Trautmann, Elanco Animal Health; Greg Woods, Greenfield Banking Co.

Children’s department garden

Team members: Kelly Leddy, MainSource Bank; Jena Mattix, Hancock County Public Library; Courtney Miller, Jane Pauley Community Health Center; Renee Oldham, Mt. Vernon Education Foundation.

5210 healthier choices program

Team members: Angela Flench, Indiana Department of Transportation; Christy Harpold, Greenfield-Central schools; Dr. Jason Hua, Jane Pauley Community Health Center; Adam Wilhelm, Hancock Regional Hospital.

Scavenger hunt revamp

Team members: Diane Petry, Life Choices Care Center; George Plisinski, NineStar Connect; Jason Wells, Hancock Regional Hospital; Stacey Wixson, Greenfield Banking Co.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.