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Leadership group has ambitious goals

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Since September, 23 of Hancock County’s emerging leaders have been noodling and coaxing to completion five civic projects they hope will serve a broad spectrum of county residents.

The Leadership Hancock County Class of 2014 is unique this year not only for its size but for its ambitious scope.

“We try to limit our classes to 20, and usually we have between 16 and 18,” said coordinator Donieta Ross. “But we are so fortunate to have businesses in the county that support us by sending us employees.”

Leadership Hancock County, founded in 1994 with its first class graduating two years later, is chartered with developing a countywide corps of civic and community leaders.

Each year, the group solicits project proposals from county nonprofits, schools, governments and civic organizations, and then breaks down into teams to develop and execute them.

This year’s efforts include initiatives to install an electronic message sign near the entrance to the Pat Elmore Center to promote Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department programs; build a website for Hancock County Community Foundation’s new Women’s Resource Center; and develop a strategic marketing plan to build awareness for Hancock County Career Success Coalition’s drive to increase post-secondary education in the county.

“We have a vast variety of projects,” Ross said.

Wednesday, Hancock County Public Library IT specialist Jeff Butts and Andrea Mallory of the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce huddled to discuss the next move in an effort to establish a “Little Free Library” that will put book boxes at locations throughout the county.

The Little Free Library started with the construction of a model one-room school house filled with books in Hudson, Wis., in 2009.

Residents were encouraged to “take a book, leave a book,” according the organization’s website, and a movement was born.

While still finalizing the design – currently moving toward historic Hancock County landmarks – Butts, Mallory and their team hope to place two of the free little libraries initially.

“Everyone we’ve talked to about this couldn’t be more thrilled,” Butts said.

The team will utilize a large hutch at Hancock Hope House for one of the libraries, and it is also discussing a park location with the city parks department.

The book inventory will be seeded with donations and retired library books as the program moves toward being self-sustaining under the “take a book, leave a book” theme.

Though the little library boxes are still few and far between in central Indiana, Butts and Mallory are confident in the project’s potential.

“We visited one in Bargersville right after a heavy snow, and there were footprints everywhere all around it,” Butts said.

In addition to providing a service to county literature lovers, the little boxes will also play a role in improving academic performance and literacy levels for county kids, Mallory said.

And even if there’s more “take a book” than “leave a book,” supply is not an issue, the team said.

“Even if they’re swiping them, they’re still swiping a book,” Butts said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Leadership Hancock County is developing a survey to find out precisely what county residents think about domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Once the design is complete and the survey taken, county leaders in the field will have a better understanding of how to address domestic violence in Hancock County.

“Primarily we’re going to be trying to gauge community awareness of domestic and sexual violence. Thoughts and beliefs. Is it happening here?” said Kelly Buzan, outreach advocate for Alternatives Inc., a domestic violence shelter serving six central Indiana counties, including Hancock County.

Civic leaders are in the process of putting together a countywide coalition on the issue, and Buzan said the survey will help organizers drill down to an appropriate starting point.

“We’ll use that survey as a tool to help get us off the ground and see where we need to be focused as a coalition,” she said.

“We have a great group,” said team member Sharon Kramer. “It’s very interesting, and we’re just about to finalize the survey.”

Though plans are still being finalized on how the survey will be distributed, Kramer said the study will cut across a wide demographic to include a variety of age groups for a comprehensive study.

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