The Morrow County Story – Community Engagement

As Ohio County Boards of DD prepare to accelerate their levy campaigns during the two months left before ballots are cast on November 4, there is a lot to be learned from the Morrow County Board of DD. The tireless efforts of the Community Partners and the levy committee resulted in passage of a replacement levy and 1.5 mill increase (3.0 mill total) in May 2014, by 51.49 percent. Special thanks to Superintendent Nancy Fogelsong, for sharing their story.

Connections. Relationships. Partnerships. The value of what these three words represent cannot be measured. Over a decade ago, the Morrow County Board of DD lost much more than renewal levies. They lost the trust and support of their community, and ultimately their identity. Without the renewals, the county board spent the next decade trying to pass a new levy in a community where rumors and misinformation fueled doubt and confusion.

In 2012, with a new strategic plan and a primary goal of building county-wide awareness, the County Board launched a year-around plan to rebuild connections, develop relationships, and foster partnerships. Restoring relationships proved much more difficult than cultivating new ones. In a rural county where activities typically involve small groups, and the only local media consists of a weekly newspaper and weekend advertiser, a communication plan relies heavily on a grassroots campaign.

The plan included finding connections with special interest groups and civic organizations. A group of adults who worked in the scanning department of the Board’s Whetstone Industries formed The CopyCats, a musical group.  They began spreading awareness through their performances. At the same time, self-advocates developed a speakers’ bureau and accompanied County Board leadership throughout the county. Maggie Clark, Community Integration Specialist, shared, “A speaking engagement at the Morrow County Democratic Women’s Club, included a CopyCats performance that found everyone on their feet dancing to the music, and launching a valuable partnership.”

Just before the November 2013 election, the growing group of supporters offered their help. Unfortunately, the levy failed — but with a close margin that sparked new life. Devastation was then replaced with a passionate interest by these new friends. They formed a nonpartisan group, Community Partners, with a mission to support individuals with developmental disabilities in the county. Their secondary goal was to support the local levy committee in passing a levy.

Morrow County Board of DD Superintendent Nancy Foglesong explained,

This volunteer ‘army’ added the synergy that had been missing. With a range of experience from education to political activism, these dedicated volunteers organized committees to cover all aspects of a campaign. They scheduled speaking engagements, generating credibility and support for the County Board as they joined leadership team members and self-advocates in presenting accurate information, educating and inciting others to share facts.”

The Morrow County Community Partners receive the Clearwater Council of Government (COG) Wave Award. The partnership continues as the Community Partners help to develop community connections and share their unique talents. Individuals, families, and staff of the Morrow County Board of DD, will continue to cultivate the special friendships that have developed.

The Morrow County Community Partners receive the Clearwater Council of Government (COG) Wave Award. The partnership continues as the Community Partners help to develop community connections and share their unique talents. Individuals, families, and staff of the Morrow County Board of DD, will continue to cultivate the special friendships that have developed.

She continued, “They conducted public town hall meetings and door-to-door campaigns. They distributed newsletters and levy materials. They offered support to families willing to share their personal stories. Connections. Relationships. Partnerships. That’s what has made the difference for Morrow County.”

Contact: Superintendent Nancy Foglesong, Morrow County Board of DD, 419-947-9222.

 

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