Every year, a new class of Leadership Johnson County envisions projects and programs to better serve the community the members live in.

From a comprehensive map of local trails to a program encouraging acceptance and inclusion on the playground, participants hope that their ideas can improve life in the county for all people.

Members are finishing up five diverse projects stemming from this year’s session, the 22nd year for Leadership Johnson County. They have examined guides for parents looking for child care, art programs for at-risk youth and video postcards appealing to Johnson County visitors.

“Participation in a community project creates a safe learning environment for each person to practice the collaboration skills they are learning within the classroom, while also giving back to the community in a tangible way,” said Tandy Shuck, executive director of Leadership Johnson County. “After completing their community projects, our graduates are more knowledgeable about their own leadership skills and they know where in the community their skills can be utilized.”

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Here is a run-down of the work being done in this year’s projects:

Video Killed the Radio Star

For potential visitors to Johnson County, it would be convenient to know what kind of restaurants, shopping and other attractions would make a trip worth their while.

That’s the engine driving the group calling themselves Video Killed the Radio Star. The team is creating video postcards for four communities in Johnson County, taking potential visitors to attractions such as wineries and breweries, festivals in the town and unique small businesses that they feature.

The hope is that the snippets can be used to promote Franklin, Greenwood, Bargersville and Edinburgh, with an eye on serving as content for a possible visitors bureau in the future, said Greg Miscik, one of the team members.

“We wanted to invite people in, to show them what really happens in the community,” he said. “It will kind of be like they’re driving from one community to another.”

The team has worked with Aspire Johnson County, an initiative of the Johnson County Development Corp. aimed at making the county more attractive, to have the videos posted on its Web site.

Johnson County is one of the few in central Indiana without a visitors bureau, and team members felt their project could help lay the foundation for that kind of work, Miscik said.

Trail Blazers

Throughout Greenwood, Franklin, Whiteland and other areas of the county, trails snake through neighborhoods and parks creating a more connected community.

But finding a county-wide map of every trail has been impossible. The lack of unified information inspired the Trail Blazers group to remedy that situation, said member Don Kinsey.

“It’s one thing to say there are a lot of trails here in the county, but a lot of areas are pretty close to being connected,” he said.

Team members have compiled each trail in the county, and have developed an interactive map with the help of Greenwood geographic information system technician Tom Maggard to be accessed on the Aspire Johnson County Web site, member Doug Adams said.

“This wouldn’t be a PDF file where it sits out there and is never up to date,” Adams said. “You can click on it, see where the trails go.”

While serving as a resource for runners, walkers and bicyclists, compiling a single trails map will also help county leaders apply for grants that could help expand the trail system, Kinsey said.

Child Care Connections

With a new baby on the way, the deluge of questions and concerns can seem overwhelming to new parents.

But one of the most distressing is how to find someone to watch the child when it’s time for mom and dad to go back to work.

The members of the Child Care Connection group hope to make a difficult process a little bit easier. The team is compiling a directory of daycare centers, preschools, church care, summer camps and before- and after-school options.

“A lot of us in our group had similar experiences of trying to find child care for our children. There was no centralized place to find licensed care in an easy way,” said team member Sarah Trueblood.

The online directory, to be housed with Aspire Johnson County, will include information such as types of services provided, contact information, address and hours.

Additional information will include guides to helping parents choose a care option, and child-related financial topics, such as setting up a college fund.

Buddy Brigade

The rainbow-colored bench at Clark Elementary School looks like a fitting accent to the school’s playground area.

But it was designed to have a more specific purpose than just looking good. This “buddy bench” is a safe space and symbol for kindness among children.

If a kid is feeling lonely on the playground, they can sit on the bench. Other kids are then encouraged to sit by them and strike up a conversation.

A group called Buddy Brigade is bringing three of the benches to Indian Creek elementary and intermediate schools, team member Tania Cree said.

“Sometimes, kids on a playground don’t have anyone to play with, or they get in a fight with their friends and are alone,” she said. “The idea is that they can sit on the bench, other kids can see them and ask them to play.”

Educational materials distributed at schools will help staff and students best use the benches, and foster a more kind, inclusive environment at school, Cree said.

One donor has already pledged to pay for one bench. Fundraisers such as spirit days are scheduled at Indian Creek schools to hopefully bring in enough funds to build the other two, Cree said.

A Heart for Kids

With a flourish of color and the stroke of a paint brush, one Leadership Johnson County team hopes to help at-risk youth deal with their emotions.

A Heart for Kids has paired with artist Lisa Durst to bring art to children at the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center. The sessions have been conducted weekly, and aim to use artistic expression to encourage communication, develop coping mechanisms and eventually decrease their risk to society.

“There are lots of worthy programs going on in Johnson County right now. Instead of creating a new one, we could find one that we could support and help expand,” team member Emily Marten said. “She is someone who would benefit from our help.”

Durst, a Franklin artist, offers a program called Peace of heART. She uses art to help children and adults work through grief, stress or other trauma. 

Funds from Leadership Johnson County helped create bags of art supplies, and “wreck-it journals,” where the kids can draw or paint to release pent-up emotional energy. Team members are also volunteering their time assisting Durst with the art sessions.

The hope is to get funding to keep the program going long-term, Marten said.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.