Leadership Lycoming groups present community projects

On May 27, the Leadership Lycoming class of 2014 presented its community projects to Leadership advisors, board members and project agency leaders during a reception at the Professional Development Center on the campus of Pennsylvania College of Technology. Each year the class is divided into four groups and assigned a community project. This year’s projects included the Family Promise of Lycoming County, Lycoming County United Way Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, North Central Sight Services and YWCA.

The following are summaries, written by Leadership Lycoming class members about their individual group projects.

Family Promise of Lycoming County

Leadership Lycoming has provided new and unique opportunities for the class of 2014 to broaden their horizons and learn more about the pressing issues of our community.

The largest learning opportunity was gained through the community projects. Family Promise of Lycoming County and its “Amazing Adventure to End Homelessness” was the basis for the project completed by the group including Michael Bennett, of Janney Montgomery Scott; Dee Gephart, of Hudock Moyer Wealth Resources; John Lavelle, of Lycoming County Planning; Jason Kift, of Lycoming Valley Railroad; Michelle Myers, of Community Services Group; Anna Thompson, of the YWCA Northcentral PA; and Kristin Walker, of Hope Enterprises Inc.

In 2013, Family Promise launched its “Amazing Adventure” as a way to spread awareness about homelessness in our own backyard. With unique challenges and a true “game of life,” the Amazing Adventure allowed teams of four to eight people to learn firsthand how close each person is to potential homelessness. Teams each begin the challenge with a set amount of money to complete life tasks, such as paying rent and medical bills.

A random turn of events – a broken down car, medical emergency, lay-off from work – forces teams to prioritize their money and tasks. Local service organizations served as booths during the event where teams could pay bills, while learning about the services they provide.

The Leadership Lycoming project group spent time speaking with Melissa Magargle, executive director of Family Promise of Lycoming County and gained deeper understanding of the game, the mission of the organization and Magargle’s hopes for the 2014 Amazing Adventure.

After much discussion and leg-work, the group decided to create a marketing plan and pair it with useful resources and contact lists.

Together, the project team created targeted mailing lists, including contact names and phone numbers. Expanded lists focused on service organizations who could be booths at the event and groups who could make teams and pared down mailing lists reached out to potential sponsors.

Also provided was a list of potential speaking engagements and a full list of media contacts and possible outlets for publicity.

The team provided new letters of solicitation for donations and new letters of invitation to teams and booths. A save-the-date card in editable form will allow Family Promise to update information each year and spread the word early and cost effectively.

After speaking with participants from the first Amazing Adventure, the team created a new puzzle-piece element of the game. Each booth would hold a piece of a puzzle and each team would need all pieces to complete their puzzle and finish the game.

Each member of the project group gained new insight on Family Promise thanks to this unique experience. “I learned quite a bit about what Family Promise and what they do thanks to the involvement of Leadership Lycoming,” Bennett said. “We hope the Amazing Adventure is a great success this year and into the future.”

United Way Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Six classmates from this year’s Leadership Lycoming group have worked since October to help build the visibility and financial status of the local Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which operates through the Lycoming County United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) of the Susquehanna River Region. They include Carina Orso, Eureka Resources; Eric Laughrey, Anthony H. Visco Jr. Architechts; Greg Hayes, Williamsport Area School District; Jillian Ibbs, Larson Design Group; Lesley Larson, North Central Sight Services; and Paul Caimi, Lock Haven University Small Business Development Center.

The Imagination Library, which Parton started in 1996 in Tennessee, has gone global over the last decade and a half, with a mission to “foster a love of reading among the country’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month,” provided for free from birth to age 5.

The WLC is bringing the Imagination Library to six counties: Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union.

With 500 children already committed to the program locally, the WLC sought Leadership Lycoming’s partnership to help build its visibility and financial growth. At an average of $25 per child, the WLC will need to raise $12,500 a year or $62,500 over the next five years.

The panel of six Leadership Lycoming classmates recognized the need for a stronger marketing and communications plan, as well as guidance with the program’s fundraising component.

It identified the need to create a stronger image through re-branding and advertising, enhance its website and social media use to increase its online presence, as well as developed a system of fundraising tactics and tools to begin building its donor pool.

To help launch the initial efforts, the panel redesigned its brochure and donation forms; produced the organization’s first public service announcement; and provided direction to begin seeking grants and establishing a signature fundraising event.

For more information on the Imagination Library, contact Carolyn Hawk at the Lycoming County United Way by calling 570-323-9448.

North Central

Sight Services

Part of the mission statement of Leadership Lycoming is to provide information, training and experience of understanding of the community, its problems and opportunities.

A key component of the program is the hands-on experience of being partnered with a local not-for-profit organization in the community to determine their goals and needs and to see how leadership participants can assist them using their varying backgrounds and experiences.

Our group was partnered with North Central Sight Services (NCSS), an organization that provides vision screenings, blindness prevention education and employment to individuals who are blind or visually impaired to members of Lycoming County and other surrounding counties.

Our leadership team held an initial meeting with Tracy Haas, program services director at NCSS in November to gain a better understanding of the needs of the organization and what Leadership Lycoming could do for them.

Haas had expressed concerns that the organization was having difficulties in educating and attracting local youth to the program. NCSS had their hearts set on a summer camp as a great start in attracting new clients.

After our initial meeting we all thought this was a great idea, however as our brainstorming session progressed regarding how to implement the camp, we realized NCSS could not “go it” alone and would need to collaborate with other local organizations to realize this goal.

Our group’s next task was to draft a correspondence letter targeted to certain local organizations who provide similar services at NCSS and to try and bring them to the table to discuss ideas. Members from Hope Enterprises and the YMCA attended the next meeting with other organizations declining the invitation.

The Leadership group led the discussion and some great ideas came from the meeting such as suggestions for which local clubs could assist with contributions and volunteer hours for the camp. Another great idea was to make the camp all inclusive so both children with and without disabilities could attend and intermingle to learn from each other.

We also brainstormed on the types of activities that could take place and staffing requirements. We felt a one-to-one ratio of children to counselors would be the most beneficial to the attending children.

A follow-up meeting was held with the same representatives invited however the attendance of the final meeting was minimal due to either schedule conflicts or lack of interest. At this point both NCSS and our Leadership group began to realize the timeframe for planning such a significant event was sufficient enough to be able to implement a camp for the 2014 summer.

The idea of a collaborative effort with Andrew’s Special Kids was suggested during our final meeting in which NCSS could offer vision screenings to the children of Andrew’s Special Kids. A member of the Leadership Group was charged with reaching out to the executive director. At first he was apprehensive to the idea of screenings as he felt that it can be difficult for the children at Andrew’s Special Kids to sit long enough to participate in a meaningful screening.

We made the executive director aware that NCSS currently is in the process of acquiring a new piece of visions screening equipment, which would allow the visions screening to be completed within seconds, at this point Andrew’s Special Kids was very receptive to the idea of the screenings with the new tool and was optimistic both organizations could move forward with the screenings.

We also offered the idea of a “Lunch in the Dark” for children. Each year NCSS has an annual fundraising event where adult community members donate money and attend a formal dinner including drinks and dessert, the caveat is that all people that attend are blindfolded for the entire meal (with the exception of the CEO of NCSS who himself is visually impaired) so they can experience what visually impaired individuals experience every day to raise awareness.

A lunch in the dark with children would offer the same memorable experience to kids and would increase awareness to local youth. The cost of both of the Leadership recommendations would be minimal since the purchase of the new screening equipment already is in NCSS future budget plans and the lunch in the dark would only require food costs which could potentially be sponsored by a local business to minimize costs incurred by NCSS.

The meetings that took place over several months between Leadership group members, members of NCSS and other local not-for-profit organizations were sponsored by North Central Sight Services, McNerney, Page, Vanderlin and Hall, Susquehanna Health and the James V. Brown Library.

Leadership team members include Marc Demshock, McNerney, Page, Vanderlin and Hall; Sean Monahan, ParenteBeard; Christopher Ray, Susquehanna Health; Dustin Solomon, Little League Baseball; Joseph Wood, Susquehanna Health; Barbara McGary, James V. Brown Library; and Kurt Williams, Susquehanna Community Health and Dental Center.

Williamsport YWCA Boutique

A group of participants from the Leadership Lycoming Class of 2014 were charged with the task of raising awareness for the YWCA Boutique in the YWCA building on Fourth Street.

The Boutique accepts gently-used, high quality apparel for men, women and children and sells them for a discounted price in a friendly, retail environment. The profits support the YWCA’s Liberty House and Wise Options programs, which are safe havens for families affected by homelessness and domestic abuse.

The group used various forms of media and advertising to give the Boutique a larger presence in the community. They also relied on Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce support to plan a successful open house so attendees could see firsthand how the retail experience benefits the community.

The group consisted of Lachelle Gretzula, Keystone Advertising Specialties; Elizabeth Cash, First National Bank; Michele Shadle, Woodlands Bank; Todd Musheno, The Hartman Group; Eric Beiter, Beiter’s Home Center; Bob Beucler, Genworth Financial; and Jim Gibson, CRS Advanced Technology.