By Kylie Hawn
Daily News Staff Writer
The Juniata River Blueprint Communities (JRBC) core group is seeking groups and individuals with an interest in Mount Union and Mapleton boroughs and Shirley Township to come forward with ideas to help improve the community.
Right now, the core group, along with residents of the communities, are working on four projects, including a community tool shed, wayfinding signage, a farmers’ market and an adopt-a-park concept that’s similar in nature to PennDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway project.
Amy Wise, executive director of Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI) and a member of the core JRBC team, said an example of a group that wanted to fill a need, but needed connections via the JRBC, is the War Drivers Riding Club.
They’ve taken to helping clean up parks of drug paraphernalia in the three communities as well as throughout the county.
“This is one of the great examples of how this works,” said Wise. “The group went to borough council, and they were introduced to us. I applaud (the Mount Union Borough Council) for making this happen. This one didn’t require money, as they do this on a volunteer basis. That was a hidden treasure that existed that came out of the woodwork.”
Wise said the purpose of the core group isn’t to lead projects that will help in their community, but connect people to resources and other things groups may need to get a project going.
“It’s not that we don’t like people doing things independently, but it can be way more effective if we can do it together,” said Wise.
Though the War Drivers is an example of a group who connected with the JRBC to help make things happen in the community, Wise said they need more leaders who will do the same.
“It’s a frustration with the core team and with the community with the perceived lack of progress,” said Wise. “There’s no particular leader in the community who’s able to devote the time to make these things happen.
“All of us (who regularly volunteer) are overburdened with paying jobs and other volunteer efforts,” said Wise. “We don’t have the lack of resources, but we have the lack of time. If anyone wants to get involved, they shouldn’t be afraid.”
The group wants to get all municipalities together to work toward the five-year plan and they want to share the plans of the JRBC with historical groups, civic groups and other groups out there.
“The real goal is to make sure people have all the tools and resources necessary,” said Wise. “Our role, at times, may simply just be a connector. If you have a groups who are working on what is, essentially, the same project, we can connect them and say you guys should work together. That often works out well, but sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s OK, too.”
The other goal is to put a marketing strategy into place to let people in the community know exactly what is going on and what projects in play have benefited from the JRBC, which includes mailers and a website, currently under development.
“You’ll soon see a flurry of activity with mailers and we’re ordering yard signs that say this particular project was supported by Blueprint Communities, like with the boat launches in Mapleton and the art project in Mapleton,” said Wise. “It could also be a weekend event we’re a part of or another one-time event we’re involved in to show there’s a lot of things happening, but they may just seem like they’re not connected.”