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Character council may soon disband

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GREENFIELD — Endurance is the character trait marked by the inward strength to withstand stress, and the Hancock County Character Council may have just run out of it.

The Character Council was started more than a decade ago by Greenfield-Central High School Principal Steve Bryant and Bobby Keen, president and CEO of Hancock Regional Hospital. Their goal was to create a dialogue about character values between parents and their children. Businesses would join the council and bring monthly character lessons into the workplace. At the same time, students would be studying the same character trait at school.

“It would give parents a chance to talk to their children in the evenings about the character quality of the month,” Keen explained. “We could have everybody speaking the same language, about the same qualities, at the same time. That seemed pretty exciting to us.”

So a number of local businesses, including the Hancock County Public Library, Hancock Regional Hospital, Greenfield Banking Co. and Central Indiana Power (now NineStar Connect), became council sponsors and joined in with the local school corporations to adopt the Character First program.

Each month, a certain trait was highlighted. The lesson would be shared in schools, workplaces and at a monthly breakfast, where a speaker would present on the topic.

“It was a time when a lot of schools were looking for character-building programs, and we really liked this one,” said Bryant, the council’s first president. “A lot of the businesses and school corporations adopted it as their character program. It was huge.”

The schools still use the Character First program to teach monthly character lessons. Adult attendance at the Character Council’s monthly breakfast, however, has not remained as steadfast.

Acting Character Council Director Sally Lacy said breakfast attendance has dwindled to just 10 or 15 people each month, down from more than 30 at the height of the group’s activity.

Without an influx of new blood, organizers say it isn’t worth the time, energy and resources required to keep it going.

“It’s just getting to be too much,” Lacy said. “We felt like we needed new branding, needed some more people from the community involved.

“So we gave a two months’ notice. May was the last breakfast, and if no one shows interest, we will dissolve the board.”

Lacy said she and the other board members – Judy Swift, Sheriff Mike Shepherd and C.O. Montgomery – would like to see the group continue but have run out of ideas about how to make it more useful.

“I think it’s a great thing and can really hit home when you partner it with the schools, but with no more people that attended the breakfasts, I don’t think it was very meaningful to the community anymore,” Lacy said.

Swift said through the years the group has tried different tactics, like new programming and changing the meeting times, to get more community members involved. But none of that has been unsuccessful.

“I would love to see it continue,” Swift said, “but we need new blood. We need people who have a passion for it.”

If no one steps forward in the next few months, the council will disband. But Keen did stress that the end of the council doesn’t mean character development as a whole in Hancock County will be ignored. Schools and some local businesses – including the hospital – will continue character development programming.

“Character is still really important,” Keen said. “We need to be teaching that in our schools and our community.”

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