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Service projects to help kids, organizations, communities

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A group of Leadership Johnson County participants meet to discuss their progress on a project Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at Ann's Restaurant in Franklin, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
A group of Leadership Johnson County participants meet to discuss their progress on a project Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at Ann's Restaurant in Franklin, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

A group of Leadership Johnson County participants meet to discuss their progress on a project Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at Ann's Restaurant in Franklin, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
A group of Leadership Johnson County participants meet to discuss their progress on a project Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at Ann's Restaurant in Franklin, Indiana. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

For the past five months, the next generation of local leaders have been planning how to impact their communities.

This year’s class of Leadership Johnson County has put together projects aimed at solving local problems.

One group will demonstrate, through a series of interactive skits, the positive and negative consequences of the choices middle school kids make.

If you go

Leadership Johnson County information sessions

A series of meetings to answer questions and explain in greater detail what Leadership Johnson County is. Anyone interested in the program is welcome to attend.

Thursday — 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., Tilson Conference Center, 1530 American Way Suite 200, Greenwood

Feb. 12 — 8 to 9 a.m., Bargersville Fire Headquarters, 3991 N. State Road 135, Bargersville

Feb. 26 — 6 to 7 p.m., Edinburgh Public Library, 119 W. Main Cross St.

Feb. 27 — 6 to 7 p.m., Trafalgar branch of the Johnson County Public Library, 424 Tower St.

Another is focusing on the dozens of historical markers set up throughout the county. They’ll repair and refurbish the ones that have weathered and faded over the years.

Still others are working on founding a memorial tree program in Franklin, planning a food festival to promote nonprofit groups and surveying young teens about their problems.

Now is the time to put their plans into action.

The initiatives ideally will improve community dynamics while also putting into practice the qualities of leadership they’ve been learning.

“This program does a great job of connecting us with the people and resources throughout the county. We can explore a variety of business skills and put those in action,” said Matt Giebler, senior minister at Greenwood Christian Church and a member of this year’s class.

Leadership Johnson County is a county organization that works to train new leaders and impact meaningful change in the community.

The program was founded in 1995 after area residents expressed concern about the direction local agencies, government and business would go in the future.

The class meets once a month, focusing on a different aspect of leadership each time. Participants learn how to lead meetings, to identify the best people to help with a particular job and how to organize a team.

They also learn about important aspects and history of Johnson County.

For example, to learn about local agriculture, they met with farmers and toured area farms. When the topic was quality of life, they met with soldiers at Camp Atterbury to hear their perspective.

“Those all play together incorporating how important it is to all know about the community we live in, so you can identify the needs that lead to these projects,” said Kate Taylor, assistant director of Leadership Johnson County.

The 35 members enrolled in this year’s class bring a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds to the program. Members include teachers, business and industry leaders, and volunteers with local groups. They all contribute unique perspectives to the program.

Jennifer Whitson is an assistant registrar for Franklin College, spending most of her time with professors and administrators at the school. She almost never has chance to work with business or religious leaders in other situations, but Leadership Johnson County has allowed her to do that, she said.

“One of the things I’ve gotten out of it so far is connecting with everyday business leaders. In my job, I don’t get to interact with such a wide array of professionals, and I really enjoy getting that interaction with other people.”

Those viewpoints become clear after a few months of working together. Like-minded members group together to work on a service project, Taylor said.

Many of the ideas come from the preliminary orientation all Leadership Johnson County members receive. They meet with local nonprofit agencies, visit farms, tour historical sites and meet government officials. Those sessions are intended to help people figure out the area they want their community projects to focus on.

For example, the group Restoring Guideposts to our Past came up with their idea to refurbish historical markers while touring the county.

“We have a historical driving tour that incorporates a lot of those markers and brings them to people’s attention. They noticed that many of them were not in great shape, so they wanted to tackle that,” said Tandy Shuck, executive director of the program.

After meeting the leaders of several nonprofit agencies they’d never heard of before, another group wanted to do something to increase those organizations’ visibility. They are planning a fundraising event titled “Helping Others Help Others,” a food-based festival where each agency brings a special dish to sell to the public.

“They’ll host an event that features the favorite foods of different nonprofits. They’ll all bring that dish together to sell, and it brings awareness to all of these nonprofits,” Taylor said.

Over time, Leadership Johnson County staff have had to adjust the curriculum to meet the needs of more enthusiastic and better-prepared group members.

The teams are absorbing the leadership lessons more quickly, moving the entire process forward, Shuck said.

Officials also try to tailor it to the needs of particular communities over the years through technology and other concerns.

But certain aspects have remained the same.

During the opening retreat, class members play a game in which they throw tennis balls at each other as a way to learn everyone’s names.

“We’ll keep that, because regardless of when you’ve gone through the program, you’ll have that experience,” Shuck said. “If you meet somebody who graduated, that is something you can relate to no matter when they took the class.”

The groups will work on their projects over the next three months.

All are slated to be finished by the time the class graduates on May 8.

Reaching out to middle-schoolers

Project name: Speak Up!

Group members: Jennifer Clark, Ashlyn DeWitt, Scott Gilliam, Dana Johnson, Davin Kolderup, Jeremy Pell and Jennifer Whitson

Summary: Team members have worked with students in four county middle schools to fill out a survey identifying concerns they face every day. The questions cover subjects such as participation in after-school activities, support systems in their lives and whom they’re comfortable talking with about important life issues.

The surveys are being compiled online, and the results of the 25 questions will be shared with local youth agencies. With those results in hand, organizations can tailor their programs to address the problems teens face.

Why was this something you wanted to approach?

“When our group came together, all of our ideas focused on reaching some youth in the county. Middle school youth are a group that isn’t often focused on, so we wanted to look to them. Our main goal was to get a better feel on what Johnson County youth feel is important. These agencies need to know if the surveys they’re offering are good. Do they need to do something else? Is this working.” — group member Jennifer Whitson

Remembering others

Project name: Memorial Tree Program

Group members: Rhoni Oliver, Ashely Davidson, Scott Richardson, Heather Faulk, Jon Dunham, Kay Wood and Kyle Steins

Summary: The project team has partnered with Franklin Parks and Recreation to create a memorial tree program throughout the city.

People could purchase a shade or ornamental tree and dedicate it to someone or a cause.

Team members also are working to create a plaque board within the Franklin Cultural Arts and Recreation Center. Instead of installing a memorial plaque near each tree, donors would have their names and to whom the trees are dedicated marked on a board displayed in the center.

Doing so would save parks employees from having to maintain individual markers throughout the city’s parks.

Why was this something you wanted to approach?

“We looked at the opportunity to support the usage of all of the parks and its department system. We wanted to let interested citizens dedicate and donate a tree to the city to be placed in a designated park or location they choose. We want to provide the support of the program to the parks department.” — group member Kyle Steins

Nonprofits getting boost

Project name: Helping Others Help Others

Group members: Dorcas Abplanalp, Karen Buckler, Lisa Campbell, Tauria Catlin, Brian Darby, Tina Gross and Louis Hilbert

Summary: In order to expose the public to local nonprofit organizations, the team will conduct a food fair at the Johnson County fairgrounds April 27.

Local agencies and groups can set up a booth to serve varying types of food, with all of the profits going to support their causes. This Favorite Food Fair was inspired by similar events at the Franklin Fall Festival.

Organizers hope to have as many as 50 groups participate. Registration is open until April 1.

Why was this something you wanted to approach?

“When we got together, we thought about the things that were important to us. A group of people will have different causes they care about, but we all had a heart for nonprofits. And a lot of the nonprofits have to do with education and really help children. That’s why we chose this. it gives these nonprofits the chance to sell food at the booths that they rent. And hopefully get the word out.” — group member Lisa Campbell

Restoring county history

Project name: Restoring Guideposts to Our Past

Group members: Bridget McDaniel, Chris Purcell, Mark Richards, John Siminski, Becky Tilson, Erin Vance and Matt Giebler

Summary: Working throughout Johnson County, the team has identified and assessed the condition of 36 historical markers.

These markers commemorate a variety of significant events or sites in local history, such as the birthplace of Gov. Roger Branigin and the first bank established in Greenwood.

The team will spend the coming weeks working with the Indiana Historical Bureau and other state agencies that oversee the marker program, cleaning, painting and repairing those that are in the worst condition. Improvements will include repainting lettering and fixing the bases the markers stand on.

Why was this something you wanted to approach?

“We discovered a whole bunch of historical information that we never knew before and wanted to make sure others that come after us gain as much from that experience as possible.” — group member Matt Giebler

What happens when you decide?

Project name: Play It Forward Theater

Group members: Mike Grizzle, Ben Heber, Trudy Perry, Karen Rumble, Talene Shuck, Jill Sweeney and Steve Tames

Summary: During the past few months, the team has written and directed a series of interactive skits aimed at middle school students.

The skits depict problems facing teens and offer situations where the audience has to make a choice. Subjects include drug use, shoplifting and bullying. The actors will show how those decisions can affect their lives.

Team members have been working with local high school students to act in the plays. Currently, the skits are scheduled to be performed at Indian Creek Middle School, but the hope is to bring it to other schools in the county.

Why was this something you wanted to approach?

“Kids are always faced with different situations. You hope that they know what their answer will be when they’re posed a question. But do they ever sit and think about what their answer is, until they’re faced with their questions? So the skits will show the positive or negative consequences, depending on the choice they make.” — group member Jill Sweeney

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