How would you finish this sentence? “For me, a healthy community is …”
Individuals throughout the county were asked this very question through chalkboards placed in various locations by The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County as part of its Healthy Vision project.
“The overall goal of the project was really to give the community a tool to be able to tell us what was on their minds,” says Dorothy Fox, executive director and CEO of The Partnership. “Our goal was to hear voices outside of what we already asked during our community health needs assessment, and I think we did.”
Locations included the TownMall of Westminster, branches of the Carroll County Public Library, the Carroll County government building, the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, Carroll Arts Center and at outdoor locations and community events in Sykesville, Mt. Airy, New Windsor and Westminster.
The public aspect of the project was just as important as being able to voice an opinion, says The Partnership’s Lisa Wack, who helped manage the boards. “People could see what others in the community were thinking. Sometimes it inspired them to write on the board, but other times it was just of interest to see what others shared.”
For Fox, the board at the mall was one of her favorites to visit. “I saw people stopping and reading other people’s responses,” she recalls. “They may not have written on the board, but they were still able to benefit from it.”
Some of the responses were to be expected, such as eating well and ending substance abuse, but what really surprised The Partnership’s staff was the overall selflessness of the answers. “Many of the answers really showed that people see a healthy, strong community as being one that has compassion,” says Wack.
Fox concurs. “That was one of the most beautiful things that came out of this project—people want the best for their neighbors.”
While The Partnership is still analyzing the data from the chalkboards, responses generally fell into these categories:
• Connectedness: looking out for your neighbor, spending time with your family, smiling at people, having compassion for others
• Social Values: tolerance, diversity, accepting others, voting
• Community Resources: walking and hiking trails, crosswalks, safe parks, strong schools
• Overall Health: good diet, exercise, ending substance abuse and tobacco use
Interested in voicing your opinion? Make a comment on the virtual chalkboard at HealthyCarroll.org