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The first in a series of community visioning sessions hosted by the United Way of La Porte County generated several ideas Wednesday morning at the Blue Chip Casino.

Kris Pate, United Way of La Porte County executive director, says the visioning councils are an important step in transforming to an intentional focus on impact in areas of education, income and health. The Unity Foundation, Leadership La Porte County and Purdue University North Central were among the organizations assisting with Wednesday’s session, which guided 100 or so community members in discussions on “Aspirations, Challenges and Change.”uway-visioning-2014-patespartz

“Our mission at the United Way is to improve lives of the people of La Porte County through our caring power,”Pate said Wednesday. “To do that, we need a deep and authentic understanding of our community.”

Maggi Spartz, executive director of the Unity Foundation of La Porte County, spoke to the groups on Wednesday expressing her gratitude to the United Way as an exceptional partner.

“We are very grateful for the energy they put behind this,” Spartz said. “We share the same vision and want to come together to find a way to best use our community resources.”

A slide-show showed that the Unity Foundation and United Way’s goals are indeed identical, save for the fact that the United Way aims to raise money for today, while the Unity Foundation’s use is to raise money for tomorrow.

“We envision La Porte County to be a dynamic county, recognized for its investment in its people, economic vitality, and rich quality of life, and to be a model for the innovative leadership and supportive citizenry,” Spartz said.

uway-visioning-2014-twoFollowing the introductions from Pate and Spartz, several groups of 6-10 individuals began jotting down their aspirations for the community, challenges that might exist and changes that should be made.

An example of an aspiration was having a community that values education, while pointing out that the community should be lucky to have institutions like PNC and Ivy Tech available for those who want to continue their education while remaining in the community.

Environmental issues such as simply not having trash in the open air were discussed.

uway-visioning-2014-threeIf you cannot find one plastic bag flying around in all of San Francisco, then you shouldn’t see seven on any given day in La Porte County,” said Mary Jane Thomas.

The need for more volunteers and an emphasis on selflessness were examples of some changes that need to be made if La Porte County is going to continue to be a thriving community.

Michigan City resident James Stemmler, who recently received the National Community Service Award from United Way Worldwide, said he likes the direction of the United Way since Pate took over as executive director and that visioning sessions like these, as well as other “great events” like the annual Dodgeball Challenge, help build community morale and have people looking forward to helping out a great cause.

Joan Chumley, a member of the NAACP of La Porte County, said reducing the school dropout rate, teaching people to communicate and negotiate and giving felons a second chance are imperative in helping reduce violence overall.

uway-visioning-2014-aspirationsShe pointed out that 70 percent of arrests in Michigan City are drug-related, and that once the arrestees have served their time, they are “set up to re-commit” crimes because they are ineligible for food or housing assistance once they are convicted of a drug-related crime.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” she said.

Prior to the community conversations, the United Way honored Kim Klein with the ‘Success by 6’ Service to Children Award. Klein is a teacher in the Westville school system and a member of Dunebrook, a non-profit organization with a mission to keep every child “safe, happy and healthy.”

Klein’s mother, Bonny Blastick accepted the honor on her daughter’s behalf, reading a speech that thanked both Dunebrook director Gail Johnson and the superintendent of Westville schools.

Kim “humbly accepts the service to children award,” Blastick said.

All community sessions, of which five are planned in Michigan City and five in La Porte, will be televised and available to view on the United Way website and Youtube to get “as many people involved as possible,” Pate said.

Pate encourages everyone to fill out a survey that can be found by visiting the United Way of LaPorte CountyFacebook page.

Pate says it is important to fill out the question regarding race/ethnicity, gender and age.

“Please help us ensure we reach enough responses to be demographically representative of our county,” Pate said.

Article courtesy of www.LaPorteCountyLife.com

Written by Tim Moran

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