Some local groups want to map the future of Effingham County.
The county will soon launch an initiative called “Management and Planning Programs Involving Non-metropolitan Groups,” or MAPPING. It mirrors the efforts some communities in the county have already begun.
Effingham County has enlisted the help of the MAPPING the Future of Your Community program through the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. Effingham County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Norma Lansing said the chamber and Effingham Regional Growth Alliance initiated work with the program to determine what Effingham County would look like in the future.
“The effort began with a group of community leaders who wanted to see the communities in Effingham County work together and determine what we want the future of Effingham County to look like,” Lansing said.
The MAPPING program is “a participant-driven, strategic visioning and planning process in which local leaders and volunteers create a long-range vision for the future of the county as well as a plan of action to achieve that vision,” according to a press release.
The city of Effingham, Southcentral Illinois Community Foundation and Effingham County Vision 2020 and Impact 2030 groups are also involved.
The countywide program will kick off with the first of five planning sessions on March 16 at 5:30 p.m. The location is yet to be determined. Participants will identify three to six high-priority goals for the community, an action plan for implementation and then break into groups to begin working on the goals and projects.
Lansing said the ideas will be put into a larger document, and a town hall meeting will be held six weeks later to make a more formal report on what has been decided. She estimated the projects may begin immediately after the sessions end.
Lansing said there are no predetermined initiatives going into the planning sessions because the program wants the initiatives to come from the community itself.
“It will flow naturally from the discussions we have,” Lansing said.
A MAPPING steering committee has already been formed to look for people interested in volunteering in the sessions. The committee is also seeking sponsors with a vested interest in the future of Effingham County. At least 25 community members are needed to participate in the discussions.
Though the chamber of commerce and Effingham Regional Growth Alliance’s MAPPING program will impact the county as a whole, some communities within the county have already started their own MAPPING projects.
Teutopolis had the second session in its MAPPING process Monday, with 100 people in attendance at the Community Support Systems Building. This week’s session was titled “Where Are We Now.”
The program is being funded in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
According to Gisele Hamm, Program Manager for Mapping the Future of Your Community at the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, MAPPING was created in 1991 at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. With initial support from the Office of the Lt. Governor and the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, the MAPPING program was designed to help leaders in small rural communities improve their decision-making process for community and economic development.
Since 1996, the support for this program has been transferred to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, or DCEO.
The MAPPING program itself is typically held in five three-hour sessions over the course of five to eight weeks.
“MAPPING participants will join action teams and work towards implementing the goals they have set forth for themselves,” Hamm said. “This is designed to be an ongoing cycle of achieving and refocusing to generate continuous community improvement.”
Hamm and Linda Lee Blaine, a Community and Economic Development Specialist in the program, had groups brainstorm some of the challenges for Teutopolis. A few of those challenges identified included activities for kids, teens and seniors, drainage, restaurants, and fresh groceries, lack of housing, more gym space, after-school programs.
To offset the challenges, groups were asked to brainstorm assets for the village of Teutopolis. Some of those were safety, hard workers, school system, strong faith, new Knights of Columbus hall and the new high school.
From there, they were asked to come up with “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals,” or BHAGs, which are what they desired the community to be in 10 to 30 years, stated as if it has already been achieved. Groups then took time to brainstorm their BHAGs.
Some of the BHAGs brainstormed by groups that night were all underground utilities, a biking and walking trail to Effingham, a community building with community garden outside, family mentoring program, after-school day care and economic development.
Hamm and Blaine said they would bring back a list of BHAGs for the group to vote on.
Travis Bushue, a participant in Teutopolis MAPPING, said he has learned about the village’s core values, makeup of the community and opportunities for the future during the sessions so far.
“I think this is good for the community values and working together towards one goal,” he said.
Jen Thoele, another participant, said there have been a lot of different ideas others have had that she wouldn’t think of, and it’s good to have a diversity of people working together.
“I am very motivated to start bettering our town for the future of our children,” she said.
The next session for the Teutopolis MAPPING program will be on Monday, Feb. 17, and will be themed “How Are We Going To Get There?” Sessions are open to all who want to plan for the future of the community with the hope and expectation of the participants committing to as many sessions as possible. Sessions are held at Community Support Systems, dinner is at 5:30 p.m. and meetings begin at 6 p.m. To RSVP, call 217-663-8796 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hamm said the MAPPING program has been completed in 135-plus communities in 60-plus counties. Nearby communities that have conducted MAPPING studies are Altamont, Beecher City, Dieterich, Neoga, St. Elmo, Stewardson, Strasburg and Windsor.
Lansing said Mattoon has also participated in the program.
By participating in the program, communities clearly define their goals and set a road map to their desired future.
“Many rural communities are facing a myriad of challenges, including declining population, loss of manufacturers, and a declining tax base,” Hamm said. “By having a plan in place that has the support of community members and maximizes community strengths, rural communities are able to more effectively combat these challenges and make positive change in their communities.”
She said there is a minimal sponsorship fee for the program based on population, distance from Macomb and median household income.
“We strongly encourage communities to ask for sponsorships from various individuals, organizations and local businesses so that there is buy-in from a diverse group rather than a few entities,” Hamm said. “Some groups decided to coordinate a fundraiser either prior to or during the time of the MAPPING sessions, which we highly recommend, as it seems to be a good way to get the group engaged, enthused and working together.”
To participate in Effingham County’s program, become a sponsor or donate to the program, contact Jamie Niemerg at email@example.com or call the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce at 217-347-4147.