By Chuck Reynolds—
Muncie, IN – The Muncie Action Plan spent 2020 preparing for the City of Muncie’s next strategic investment planning process in combination with an update to the Delaware County comprehensive plan. The last large-scale MAP planning took place in 2009 and although two updates have been completed since, it is time to re-visit the document with another large-scale engagement effort whereby residents help create a new vision for Muncie’s growth and investment.
Representatives from the Delaware-Muncie Metropolitan Plan Commission, Muncie Action Plan board of directors and NEXT Muncie participated in a selection process that included a nation-wide Request for Proposals and live-streamed interviews with three candidates. The urban planning firm CZB was selected to provide oversight and guidance throughout the development of the next Delaware County Comprehensive Plan and Muncie Action Plan. Work will begin in early 2021 and MAP will work with CZB to find creative ways to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard throughout the process.
As we close out this year, we would like to share MAP’s successes as we approach our Annual Community Meeting on January 27th that will be both open for the public to join online and streamed on Facebook Live. Each of our five task forces will share the work completed during 2020. This is the first of five reports from our task force leaders.
Task Force 1 leads the charge of linking learning, health, and prosperity within our community.
The pandemic has caused a tremendous disruption in our community and the educational system, the likes of which we have never seen. Sadly, the crisis has impacted many of our students and families by exposing the lack of resources and connectivity in our community. With this in mind, Task Force 1 continues to forge ahead in the face of the pandemic with an increased sense of urgency for our community.
To address these concerns, we launched The Web of Support: Everybody Succeeds initiative as an intervention to assist our students. This framework helps us see the “web of support” each student has as they strive to reach their full potential. We have the ultimate goal of creating a rich web of caring adults to guide students in making healthy lifestyle choices and to create connections through mentoring that will keep students engaged in school and make better choices towards a healthy lifestyle.
The initiative began in November 2019 with a meeting of community leaders. That meeting was followed by a two-day training in January consisting of 50 students and 50 community leaders. The goal of the two-day session was to engage participants on the importance of a web of support, how to be a mentor, and how to share the Web of Support framework with others. Following these sessions, we conducted public meetings and started giving small and large group presentations to share details and help groups start to see and apply the Web of Support in their own lives; however, as we all know the pandemic shutdown put a stop to public meetings.
Fortunately, we did not let the pandemic shutdown our excitement. We forged ahead this summer and fall with revamping our plans on how to reach mentors and students with these new constraints. Through local virtual Deep Dive projects, socially distanced connection opportunities, and the brand new national WebUp-inar series we are exploring how video conferencing tools and other resources can be implemented and impactful for sustaining relationships during these challenging times.
Moving forward, we encourage you to reach out to us about how you can get involved in supporting the youth in our area through the Web of Support. If you are interested, please find the Web of Support on Facebook or contact Kyra Zylstra at www.sustainablemuncie.org/web-of-support/
Additionally, Task Force 1 continues to strengthen the BY5 early childhood awareness and education in our community. COVID has greatly impacted our work during 2020. BY5 endeavors to be a resource and a voice for early childhood care and education providers. We don’t often think of childcare providers as economic drivers within our communities but COVID has highlighted the importance of quality childcare in keeping parents at work and the doors open to many of our businesses. If a childcare provider must close for any reason, many families are affected.
Already operating on extremely thin margins before the pandemic began, childcare centers now face additional expenses: purchasing cleaning supplies, acquiring personal protective equipment, buying thermometers, retrofitting pick-up and drop-off spaces, and more. And while recruiting and retaining staff has always been a challenge, the pandemic has even further pressured childcare centers. Childcare providers must abide by state-mandated staff: child ratios. As COVID continues to maintain a high-level of community spread, childcare centers now face the added complications of “staying in ratio” when staff members are quarantined and unable to come to work.
Despite these challenges, local childcare providers across the community continue their heroic efforts to provide safe, high-quality care and learning opportunities for our youngest citizens. Their efforts also ensure that parents can continue to work and to keep our local economy running.
Through the generosity of our local foundations, BY5 has been able to offer mini grants to several providers to assist with payroll, cleaning supplies, additional staff and materials, and even staff incentives.
While supporting our local childcare providers has been a main focus, BY5 has also redoubled our efforts to bring awareness to the critical importance of brain development and learning during the birth to five years through a comprehensive awareness campaign. It is important that our community know and understand how much brain development happens during this period and that what we do with our children matters a great deal for later life success.