Making a vision for the future
In the summer of 2015, the Harpers Ferry Booster Club was already familiar with community betterment. With a mission to improve and promote the community, the Boosters had been strengthening Harpers Ferry one bake sale at a time for several decades. In addition, each year the Boosters hosted Christmas Magic, a spectacle of lights in the park, as well as the Firecracker 5K Run/Walk, which drew hundreds of visitors to the valley on Independence Day.
When the Philanthropic Tools project began, it was natural this group would take charge in improving their small river town through a new community-wide initiative called Harpers Ferry Vision for Our Future.
“All of the ingredients were there for a better Harpers,” says Boosters President Betty Steege. “It was just putting it together and making it taste good,” she adds with a smile.
Steege’s enthusiasm and vision was evident from the beginning. She understood the value of the USDA tools, training and technical assistance and was able to inspire others to action with these resources.
Together the Boosters rallied for broad-based community support from area businesses, community members, and local leaders. They worked with Community Foundation staff to make signs, hand out fliers, and send mailers to every household, encouraging everyone to share their voice. The Boosters hosted seven community conversations at key locations and then, with Mayor Jerry Valley’s support, planned a Mayor’s Dinner to celebrate the town’s assets, share survey and conversation results, and form working groups.
On a rainy day in June 2015, more than 80 community members, young and old, lifetime residents and new, gathered in the Harpers Ferry Community Center to enjoy grilled brats and ice cream with fresh strawberries in celebration and collaboration. Together they discussed the results of the community conversations and shaped their vision for the future.
Working groups formed to address four themes that arose from these discussions: increasing the number of young families, growing small businesses and jobs, enhancing service to tourists, and increasing the number of permanent residents.
Mayor Valley hopes the initiative will help renew the spirit of community he remembers from his childhood. “It was always great growing up in Harpers,” he says.