Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Jan. 14, 2002

Community partnership program looking to map out Waverly's future

By Matt Kilian
Director of Communications, Initiative Foundation

Issues like economic development, downtown revitalization, planned growth, and youth opportunities could be included in Waverly's new community development plan.

That will largely depend on public opinion and the work of 17 residents who have volunteered to facilitate planning efforts in partnership with the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation.

The foundation's popular and highly effective community planning program, called the Healthy Communities Partnership (HCP), has earned the praise of more than 60 central Minnesota cities for its innovative approach of involving everyone and anyone in envisioning a brighter future and developing a plan to get there.

"The training, education, and resources available through the Initiative Foundation are incredible," said Angela Lachermeier, a Waverly HCP team member.

"I am personally looking forward to some creative problem-solving and the exchange of ideas in the community of Waverly as a whole."

Each year, the Initiative Foundation selects only eight communities to participate in the HCP training process. Staff and consultants then train a team of 12 to 20 community representatives, such as Lachermeier.

Training topics include building a team, facilitating meetings, identifying community assets and developing a shared vision.

Waverly's HCP team members are Forrest Bandel, Lynda Jensen, Ben Borrell, Ken Hausladen, Pam Henry-Neaton, Marshall Hogenson, Catherine Jackson, Leighton Johnson, Genevieve Johnson, Mary Kay Johnson, Angela Lachermeier, Shirley Olson, Gary Olson, John Rassat, Geraldine Smith, Jim Vrchota, and Jim Woitalla.

"The best part of the Healthy Communities Partnership is that all people will have an opportunity to get involved with future planning," said Karl Samp, Initiative Foundation director of community initiatives.

"The team members are just the steering committee," Samp added. "We want to use the strengths and assets of Waverly's youth, seniors, business owners, farmers, tradesman, school teachers, homemakers, government officials . . . you name it.

"What will make this program successful is the community's ability to harvest many unique ideas and perspectives, and then getting people involved to put those ideas into action."

According to Samp, the end result is to get the entire community together to brainstorm issues and set goals. It is then the task of the 17-member HCP team to write a community development plan, a simple document that summarizes the vision of the community and details specific action steps.

Besides training, the Initiative Foundation provides ongoing staff assistance, referral to helpful resources and an initial $10,000 grant. Once the plan is completed, the foundation promises to give Waverly priority consideration to fund projects identified in the plan through non-profit grants and business loans.

Since its inception in 1986, the Initiative Foundation has invested more than $12 million in grants and $14.5 million in business loans in order to strengthen central Minnesota's 160 communities and encourage economic growth.

It's likely that the Waverly area will receive its fair share of those dollars in the future, but its purpose will largely depend on the community's decisions in the coming months. HCP team members already have a few ideas.

"Waverly people have always had a strong loyalty to the community, but we've been land-locked with nowhere to grow, so our young people had to leave and establish residence elsewhere," said Mary Kay Johnson.

"It is my hope that through this program we can acquire the wherewithal to encourage developers to build apartments and moderately priced homes for our young people."

Jim Vrchota, president of Citizens State Bank of Waverly, and chair of the HCP team, said he hopes that the community will consider creating an atmosphere of business growth and development that will strengthen the local economy.

"I feel, with the help of the Initiative Foundation to bring positive-thinking people together, we can achieve a Waverly where people can come to live, work and purchase essential goods and services," he explained.

Lachermeier said that downtown revitalization and preservation of the Village Hall are topics that interest her.

Waverly residents will have the opportunity to affect future priorities and planning decisions by voicing their ideas during a community meeting in the spring.

Until then, the HCP team is encouraging residents to direct their questions and concerns to any team member, or HCP chair Jim Vrchota, at (763) 658-4417.

For more information on the Initiative Foundation, call (877) 632-9255 or visit online at www.ifound.org.


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