Our Retreat

Our Owen County Community Foundation volunteer board of directors is made up of 15 Owen County residents who donate their “time, treasure, and talent” to help keep our local charity on track to help our Owen County communities. This week we headed out to the CCC Shelter at McCormick’s Creek State Park to spend most of a day discussing our community and the needs here, followed by a discussion of the strategic steps we need to take to try and meet those needs through our grants and scholarships.

We normally meet once a month as a board but don’t have much extra time in those action packed 60 to 90 minute meetings to go very deep into the big issues, so we retreat to the woods once a year to spend some quality time working together on laying out our plans for the future.

This year we started off the day with a presentation from Scott Burgins of SB Research & Planning about some demographic trends in Owen County. Some of the data we already know well, but we revisited and discussed the slow downward trend in our county population and the health challenges we face as a community. We looked at the poverty levels here. Many people are dealing with major challenges as 10% of households are in poverty and another 25% of families are just hanging on and perhaps one major financial setback, job loss or broken down car, away from poverty. For those working at minimum wage jobs, they need to work 62 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

We also saw some unexpected facts that helped our group see some new realities. There are around 1,000 single mothers living here. Only 17% of households are made up of two parents and children. I think sometimes we think that family unit is typical of our community but that is not the case. And 18% of 16 to 24 year-olds are not in school or working.

We, of course, have many good things going on, too. Expansion in local manufacturing, our beautiful natural surroundings that draw visitors here, and much more. So the local picture is far from bleak. But by taking the time to understand our local challenges, our board of directors can help to set priorities in the work we do at your OCCF.

Our afternoon discussion was led by former OCCF board chair and business consultant Jim DeCoursey who described the challenges to the leadership of an organization like the OCCF after our first 25 years. We discussed the need for our organization, board, staff, and volunteer committees to be aligned together so that we are all moving toward collective action on accomplishing our mission. Easy to describe but not always easy to do.

We examined in detail our own OCCF permanent funds and looked at what options our board may have available to them to use the grants coming out of those funds to meet our community challenges. Many of our assets are used to meet the specific goals of the donors who provided those funds and others allow the board discretion in how the funds are used.

Finally, we spent some quality time discussing the future of our OCCF and ways that we can begin working with younger donors and volunteers to engage them in local philanthropy. Our process for receiving digital gifts needs a lot of work. We need to adopt new approaches to everything from the makeup of our board and committees to how we communicate with our donors to meet the needs of our rising generations.

So much to be done. But after a wonderful first 25 years, we will continue to work diligently to develop the resources we will need for the next 25 and beyond.

Your OCCF board of directors and staff enjoyed our day of togetherness in the beauty of McCormick’s Creek State Park. We are energized by the challenges ahead of us because we know we can work with our many community partners and you, our supporters and donors, to help make our Owen County communities become better places to live, grow, and work.

Your Owen County Community Foundation is here to help you help our communities. We value charitable spirit and community involvement. If you would like to learn more about this local charity, give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at mark@owencountycf.org, visit us online at www.owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit us in person. We are located at 60 E. Market Street in Spencer on the south side of the Courthouse Square.

Special note: Okay it’s the third week in a row that I’ve mentioned Willie Wonka but the Owen County Civic Theater got “tornadoed out” one of the performance scheduled for last weekend. Join this wonderful cast, orchestra, and crew as they do one more round of “Willy Wonka the Musical” tonight, Friday June 21st at 7 p.m. at the Owen Valley High School auditorium. Lively production – lots of talented young people – join them in music, dance, and fun.

I will be gone next week but will be back here for a message on Friday, July 5th.