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Sustaining Hoosier Communities Greene County, Indiana Report 2019-2020

Strengthening Indiana community by community

A message from Sustaining Hoosier Communities Director Jane Rogan:

Rural matters. Almost 36 thousand square miles of the state of Indiana are utilized for agriculture and manufacturing, and more than half of Indiana counties are more rural than urban. Greene County is among 67 of Indiana’s 92 counties with under 50,000 residents. Forestry, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing remain essential to the stability of rural towns and villages.

The health, vitality and opportunities of rural places like Greene County depend on the economy and also on the livability of rural communities. Innovative rural leaders make investments in cultural assets, the promotion of tourism within rural spaces, the protection and stewardship of recreational spaces, and they pay attention to the essential elements of a community’s quality of place—to ensure it is an interesting and fulfilling place to work, raise and educate a family, and to live in with ease into and beyond retirement.

The partnership with IU’s Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative has made clear that this spirit of innovation, place-making and appreciation of rural traditions is thriving in Greene County. The projects that Greene County community members developed and IU faculty and students tackled were created through conversations about the positive future residents want to see for their communities. These conversations included mapping the assets of the community—its strengths in areas such as housing, recreation, government, health, recreation and arts, and employment. Each project built upon an important community asset and devised a way to strengthen or diversify that asset to create new opportunities for the county.

The Center for Rural Engagement looks forward to continuing its partnership with Greene County, especially around three areas of focus: Farmers’ Market development and supporting food systems across Greene County; youth leadership and development, particularly related to teen mental health and wellness initiatives; and promoting tourism to Greene County’s rich cultural assets through branding and wayfinding efforts. The diversity of these continuation projects reflects the diversity of strengths held within Greene County. Reinforcing connections to and among these community assets underscores how such strengths can hold new, rich opportunities for the community and the essential roles these assets play in the county’s future sustainability.

About Sustaining Hoosier Communities

Through Sustaining Hoosier Communities, the IU Center for Rural Engagement connects faculty and students at IU Bloomington with rural Indiana communities to partner in the formation, leadership and development of projects that address health and wellness, community resilience and quality of place. The center matches faculty, students and university resources to create a team that works together to achieve the community's vision.

About Greene County

Greene County is a rural community in southern Indiana with a population of 32,177. Several towns and cities comprise Greene County, including Bloomfield, Linton, Jasonville, Stockton, Switz City and Worthington. Residents and tourists alike enjoy the recreational and cultural resources of Greene County, home to Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, Greene-Sullivan State Forest, Redbird State Riding Area, Shakamak State Park, Shawnee Theatre, Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum and the Linton Freedom Festival, which features the largest Independence Day parade in Indiana. Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane and WestGate at Crane Technology Park are large economic drivers in the area, and the newly completed portion of Interstate 69 has added a major transportation thoroughfare.

IU students and faculty worked with Greene County leaders and residents on projects ranging from promoting tourism, to developing public relations campaigns for the Linton Farmers' Market and Shawnee Theatre, to educating 4-H youth on mental health.

Our process

Appreciating the remarkable histories, people, and resources that rural communities have, Sustaining Hoosier Communities uses a process guided by the principles of appreciative inquiry, asset-based community development, and Strategic Doing. Greene County residents were asked to adopt an appreciative inquiry mindset, envisioning a positive future in which Greene County was thriving—what would that look like? Residents then took stock of the assets in Greene County, recognizing the county is home to a great number of people and organizations with valuable knowledge, skills, and resources. Residents developed project ideas inspired by local assets, submitting more than 100 ideas in total.

The Center for Rural Engagement shared the project ideas with faculty from a wide variety of disciplines, who were excited to incorporate the projects into their courses. Faculty and students visited Greene County and community partners visited campus, and these exchanges allowed the faculty and students to gain an understanding of the rural community context. The spring semester began like the fall, but half way through, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Indiana University to shift course instruction online, so the spring semester concluded with virtual collaboration. Despite the pandemic, most of the projects were able to be completed in some respect because of the diligence of the community partners, faculty, and students.

Sizable group attends SHC initiative planning session

“This is an incredible opportunity for the citizens of Greene County to showcase all that makes us unique. Our people, resources, talent, work ethic and, most importantly, our dreams and imaginations."

Richard Nichols, President of the Greene County Tourism and Advisory Board, and President of the Greene County Convention, Visitor and Tourist Commission

Top assets as identified in the community meeting:

  • Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area
  • Linton Farmers' Market
  • Shawnee Theatre
  • Festivals
  • Libraries
  • Shakamak State Park
  • Greene County General Hospital
  • Churches
  • School Systems
  • Mayor of Linton
  • Sculpture Trails
  • 4-H
  • Hamilton Center
  • Elks Lodge
  • Greene-Sullivan State Park
  • Food Pantries
  • Nursing Homes
  • CRANE
  • Pioneer
  • Red Bird State Recreation Area
  • Metal Tech
  • Tulip Trestle

Projects

“Thank you for making Greene county a priority this year. . . . We consider ourselves fortunate to have worked with such a competent student group. They offered us a great deal and we thank them for their expertise and willingness to work with us.”

– comment from community partner survey

“[This project] enabled me to take these ideas and what I learned into the real world and showed me that I will be able to do this in my future career after working with a real client.”

– comment from student survey

Designing a Tulip Trestle Visitor Center

The Tulip Trestle Restoration Inc, with a three-fold mission of community, preservation, and conservation, plans to build a multi-functional visitor center in the future. Dorian Bybee's interior design students created two sets of plans for the visitor center: a short-term plan with basic features like gathering space and restrooms, and a long-term plan with supplemental features like a conservationist residency space.

Promoting Tourism in Greene County

With a local innkeeper’s tax implemented quite recently, the Greene County Tourism Advisory Board is better positioned to utilize resources and promote the county’s many tourism resources. To bring a new design style to these promotion efforts in Greene County, Jenny El-Shamy’s graphic design students created new communications assets, including a logo for the county, a brochure, and kiosks for key sites.

Designing a Business Model for Artist Co-Operative

To support art activities, build community, and attract tourism, the Greene County Tourism Advisory Board worked with 180 Degrees Consulting in the Kelley School of Business to design a business plan for an artist cooperative at The Cabin.

Modeling Finances for a Recreation Center

Greene County is seeking a facility where residents can participate in recreation activities year-round. To initiate the planning process for a recreation center, Dr. Bree Josefy’s graduate accounting students surveyed community members and modeled potential financial futures for a recreation center, helping the Greene County General Hospital determine how to organize and operate the recreation center on behalf of the community.

Increasing Access to the Linton Farmers' Market

To increase access to the Linton Farmers’ Market, Dr. Olga Kalentzidou’s students in Edible Education evaluated the market’s position within the local food system, identifying stakeholders, needs, and access points for SNAP recipients.

Creating a Greene County Tourism Public Relations Strategy

With a local innkeeper’s tax implemented recently, the Greene County Tourism Advisory Board is better positioned to utilize resources and promote the county’s many tourism resources. Dr. Minjeong Kang’s students in Public Relations Planning and Research conducted a situational analysis through primary and secondary research and created a comprehensive public relations campaign book with practical recommendations for advancing the board’s public relations efforts.

Creating Public Relations Campaigns for the Shawnee Theatre

To better engage key audiences for Shawnee Theatre, such as youth and families, Dr. Minjeong Kang’s students in Public Relations Campaigns conducted a situational analysis through primary and secondary research and created comprehensive public relations campaigns with practical recommendations for advancing Shawnee Theatre’s goals.

Creating Public Relations Campaigns for the Linton Farmers’ Market

To better engage key audiences for the Linton Farmers’ Market, such as SNAP recipients and potential volunteers and sponsors, Dr. Esi Thompson’s students in Public Relations Campaigns created comprehensive public relations campaigns through a situational analysis including primary and secondary research and offered practical recommendations for advancing the goals of the Linton Farmers’ Market.

Promoting the Sculpture Trails

The Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museums is home to more than 150 iron sculptures made by artists from across the world. Despite the strong international network, there remains opportunity to engage community members in the region. Students in Esi Thompson's public relations campaigns class created campaigns to engage residents of Bloomington and attract volunteers for the organization.

Promoting the Tulip Trestle

The Tulip Trestle is a dearly held landmark outside of Solsberry. Although it attracts admirers from across the nation each year, more could be done to encourage community members to support the nonprofit that stewards the site. Students in Victoria Field's public relations campaigns class created campaigns to gather volunteer and financial support for the Tulip Trestle.

Chronic Illness: Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

To increase the accessibility of health care for those with chronic illness, Erin Wyatt’s nursing students in Transitional Care for Families and Populations created a set of resources and videos to inform local residents of safety and good practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Developing a Community Engagement Plan for Shawnee Theatre

The Shawnee Theatre has a history to be proud of in Greene County. Arts administration students helped the theatre identify community engagement strategies to capture the interest of families and youth, positioning the theatre on a path toward sustainability.

Managing Volunteers with the Romans Warrior Foundation

The Romans Warrior Foundation has a mission to provide cost-free, therapeutic weekend retreats for Greene County veterans, Gold Star families, and first responders. Students in Laura Littlepage's human resources class developed plans for volunteer management to assist the growing nonprofit.

Managing Volunteers with the Sculpture Trails

The Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum funds its projects through donations and grants. Students in Laura Littlepage's human resources class prepared materials to manage volunteer recruitment and coordination efforts required to staff and support the various activities of the nonprofit.

Planning for Trails

For the City of Linton and many other organizations and residents, connecting Greene County via a recreation trails system is a high priority and something the county currently lacks. Bill Brown’s graduate students in Sustainable Communities engaged consultants to identify how to start a trail development project, inventory potential funding sources, and launch a planning committee with a clear timeline and deliverables in order to develop trails across the county.

Revitalizing Downtown Linton

To foster more economic activity in Downtown Linton, Mark Levin’s students in Local Economic Development identified potential businesses to occupy a vacant downtown building that needs rehabilitation, and they assisted the Linton-Stockton Chamber of Commerce and the Greene County Economic Development Corporation with applying for relevant grants.

Writing Grants with the Romans Warrior Foundation

The Romans Warrior Foundation has a mission to provide cost-free, therapeutic weekend retreats for Greene County veterans, Gold Star families, and first responders. Students in Laura Littlepage's grant writing class prepared materials to apply for grants that will fund key projects for the nonprofit.

Writing Grants with the Sculpture Trails

The Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum is an active operation supported almost entirely by volunteer efforts. Students in Laura Littlepage's human resources class developed plans for volunteer management to assist the nonprofit.

Benchmarking a Recreation Center

Greene County is seeking a facility where residents can participate in recreation activities year-round. To initiate the planning process for a recreation center, Alison Miller’s students in Living Well identified benchmark recreation centers in similar communities and created reports on key aspects of operations, such as budget models and available services.

Creating Programming for the Bloomfield Pool

Following the Bloomfield Pool's renovations in 2018, there is a need to continue attracting residents to enjoy the pool. Alison Miller’s students in Recreational Sports Programming drafted programming proposals that will creatively use the pool facilities during and after swim season.

Developing Activities for Youth

To increase the supply of recreation activities for the youth in Bloomfield, Dr. Julie Knapp’s students in Foundations of Public, Nonprofit and Community Recreation created a needs assessment, a variety of activity plans, and a database of relevant grants.

Educating 4-H Youth on Mental Health

Purdue Extension-Greene County is developing a youth council to provide space for youth to take leadership on a number of pressing issues. To spread awareness and reduce stigma, Dr. Deb Getz’s students in Introduction to Lifespan Development designed short educational interventions about mental health and other health topics for youth and deliver them to the new youth council.

Interpreting Native Plants at Shakamak State Park

To educate visitors at Shakamak State Park about the importance of native plants, Dr. Brian Forist’s students in Integrated Resource Management designed native plant beds and create accompanying interpretative signage for installation next to the park’s busy swimming pool and lake.

Supporting the Greene County Youth Council

The Greene County Youth Council, formed in fall 2019, provides a platform for high school youth to address relevant health topics among their peers, including topics like substance misuse and sexual health. Students in Deb Getz's youth workers class created educational materials for the Youth Council to ensure they have access to accurate and appropriate information.

Continuation projects

The collaborations through Sustaining Hoosier Communities this past year have laid the foundation for continued partnership between Greene County and the Center for Rural Engagement. Ongoing projects will address some of the major priorities that emerged from the community meetings with Greene County residents, including tourism promotion, food system development, and support for youth.

Tourism promotion

Jenny El-Shamy, a graphic design professor, and her student Erika Armstrong will work with Brianne Jerrels, the executive director of the Greene County Economic Development Corporation, to design and implement wayfinding signage that will help tourists and residents of Greene County explore the many recreational and cultural assets spread across the county. The Center for Rural Engagement awarded funding to El-Shamy to lead this project into 2021, which will allow for community stakeholder engagement that will produce designs the county will be proud to install. This project follows the county branding and logo project that El-Shamy’s students completed in the fall semester in collaboration with Jerrels.

“What the community partners and I were most impressed by was the way [students] listened, identified the problems to solve, conducted thorough research, and created designs that captured the essence of Greene County. Their level of personal investment, hard work, and dedication resulted in expert design solutions and effective branding systems."

Jenny El-Shamy, IU School of Art, Architecture + Design

Food system development

After professors Esi Thompson and Olga Kalentzidou finished their projects with the Linton Farmers’ Market, focusing on public relations campaigns and engaging SNAP recipients, the Linton Farmers’ Market hired an intern from the Media School with funding from the Center for Rural Engagement. During the summer of 2020, the intern helped implement some of the recommendations from the student projects, such as creating vendor profiles to highlight the local farmers who grow fresh food for the community. In addition, Mark Stacy, the president of the board for the market, has been an active participant of the Indiana Uplands Food Network—a collaboration between the Center for Rural Engagement and the Sustainable Food Systems Science initiative at IU. Sponsored by the Center for Rural Engagement, Stacy also joined a delegation of Indiana food system stakeholders at the National Good Food Network Conference, where system leaders from across the United States gather to network and to learn about the forefront of food system development.

Support for youth

Malea Huffman, the 4-H coordinator for Purdue Extension—Greene County, will continue a collaboration started with Professor Deb Getz and her students to build the Greene County Youth Council. The council was formed when Greene County youth had expressed to Huffman that they needed a space to discuss important topics related to youth well-being in the county, such as mental health. Getz, as a leader in Indiana for youth development and former resident of Greene County, worked with her students and Huffman to create educational materials that addressed the topics of interest for the youth council. As the council approaches the end of its first year in the fall, Huffman and Getz will continue to support the visioning of the youth, who hope to cultivate a county where they can thrive.

Acknowledgements

Community partners

Beth Burcham, Brian Romans, Brianne Jerrels, Cheryl Hamilton, Gerry Masse, Hugh Patton, Jack Terrell, Janice Barker, John Cotter, John Wilkes, Judy Wise, Kenna Duguay, Kyle Cross, Malea Huffman, Mark Stacy, Richard Nichols, Rita Sharr, Scott Yoho, Sharon Galloway, Sophie Haywood, Stacy Burris, Todd Woods, Tonjua Toon

Faculty

Alison Miller, Bill Brown, Bree Josefy, Brian Forist, Deb Getz, Esi Thompson, Jenny El-Shamy, Julie Knapp, Laura Littlepage, Mark Levin, Minjeong Kang, Olga Kalentzidou, Trent Engbers, William Schwab, Ted Castronova, Dorian Bybee, Victoria Fields, Adrian Starnes, Ronda Hendricks, Erin Wyatt, Neil Shah