La Porte County preps for becoming a Vibrant Community during second community workshop

La Porte County preps for becoming a Vibrant Community during second community workshop
By: Gena Demuth Last Updated: October 22, 2019

The Vibrant Initiative series hosted by Unity Foundation of La Porte County convened for the second of five meetings on Tuesday night at the La Porte Civic Auditorium. The Vibrant Communities of La Porte County Initiative was designed to engage community members in an important discussion to determine where the community is today, where it would like to be, and how it intends to get there.

"When someone asks you about your community, what do you say next?" asked key speaker Kyle May, Senior Planner of Planning NEXT.

This question and many others were posed at the workshop challenging attendees to reflect on the current state of their community and its future.

Asking these important questions helps the program further reach its mission –to ensure special communities remain strong, diverse, and prosperous.

The Action Agenda will then guide the future of all the communities of La Porte County based on its residents’ vision and shared goals. Citizen involvement in the action agenda is critical to developing the vision for the county’s future and how to make that vision become a reality.

In 1990, a program called Take Charge was started under the La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Purdue University. While there were positive outcomes from the program, further attempts over the years to replicate it were not successful.

Vibrant Community Talk 2019

Vibrant Community Talk 2019 30 Photos
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The Unity Foundation and the La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau decided to team up to strengthen the community and its future.

Maggi Spartz, President of Unity Foundation, is passionate about sculpting a vision and emphasized the importance of having one for the community.

"I'm a sailor," Spartz said. " You have to know your course, or you will end up on the rocks. If La Porte County and its community members don't have a common vision or sense of direction, someone else will do it for us. If we know what we want, we will be more likely to get there."

The Vibrant Initiative will evaluate past initiatives, engage the communities in a thoughtful discussion of ideas, and build positive momentum with the Action Agenda.

"If you were to write a newspaper headline 20 years from now, what does the headline say about your community if we are successful?" May asked.

May pointed out that while community growth has been slow, La Porte County, the second-largest county in Indiana, had strong diversity.

 "The diversity is a gift in itself," he said.

James Malony, a La Porte High School Key Club representative, moved to La Porte 10 years ago. He was at the meeting to take notes on how his club could help and to meet new people and get the club's voice out in the community.

"I have always loved La Porte," Malony said. "I got my passion to help the community through places like Key Club and through La Porte High School. Where I lived before, there wasn't that community feel. I like how La Porte is different  than that, and I want to embrace that community connection."

Having an already busy schedule did not deter La Porte County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Ronald Heeg from jumping at the chance to get involved with the committee. He supports what Vibrant Initiative is trying to accomplish by bringing the communities together, getting out into the public, and getting involved.

"We have a saying at the Sheriff's office: Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. By people coming here tonight, they are being a part of the solution, and that's what I like so much about this," Heeg said.

The five-phase process is projected to take place over seven months. On December 4, the Summit of the Future will be a return to the Civic Center to learn what the community had to share, what was learned from its members, and to deliberate on the paths of the projects that the community says are important to them.

"Instead of elected officials saying how it's going to be, it's the community who is telling us what their vision is," said Jack Arnett, Executive Director of the La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I came across Planning NEXT through our regional tourism group on the toll road project, and I was able to see first-hand what they did in Elkhart County. I came back and told Maggi we had to do this, and she became the driving force behind this.”

"Past conversations started in a room just like this, were written down, and became an agenda for action," May said. "This is the start. You represent the start of a very important process."

Three more workshops on the Action Agenda will be held on October 23 at Purdue University Northwest Westville Campus, October 28 at Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa, and October 29 at New Prairie High School. To learn more visit their website www.VibrantLPCounty.org.