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Friday, October 26, 2018

Cameron County Heart & Soul Project Hosts Volunteer Training and Story Gathering Workshop

“It seems to me that we have a lot of story yet to tell”.— Walt Disney

 “The process of gathering stories builds community social bonds. Stories help us to understand others. Most people want to know they’re seen and heard in the community. And, honoring their stories is one way we can do that.” This was stated by Jen Danifo, Senior Program Officer of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. She was the guest speaker at a Community Heart & Soul workshop training, Phase 2.1: Gather, Listen To and Share Stories, hosted by the Cameron County Project Volunteer Corps (CCP) in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Orton Family Foundation. The seminar was held at DCNR Bureau of Forestry: Elk State Forest in Emporium, PA on October 24, 2018 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

During the workshop, an explanation of the objectives of the CCP was given. These aspirations, among many, include completing a two year survey of community statements to be used for funding and implementing programs, encouraging residents to engage more in the community to strengthen our unity, and to ensure that all voices are heard/valued to build a better Cameron County. With awareness of these goals, Danifo stressed that this is why gathering stories is so vital. She said that considering most people love to tell stories and have a personal/emotional connection to those narratives, they will likely be open to share with others on how they feel. It’s the hope of the CCP that this ideal will springboard stories from residents on what they love about Cameron County and how to improve it in order to prosper now and for future generations to come. It was agreed upon by the workshop attendees that each person has a story to tell, but it’s up to everyone to pull that story out, cherish it, and use it for the betterment and unification of the community as a whole. All meeting participants engaged in story collecting activities to sharpen skills in developing questions, determining people’s needs, and building trust. Also, Leanne Tingay, Senior Associate of Programs of the Orton Family Foundation, provided advice on using “connectors” and interviewing groups of people to reach various demographics. Tingay was accompanied Joan Wagner, Associate of the Orton Family Foundation, who offered tips on one-on-one interviews and creative ideas to go about it. Moving forward, the CCP will use Wednesday’s training to generate a full-scale engagement plan to branch out in the county to not only gather stories, but to also guarantee that each resident group is heard as a way to reach the project’s overall goals.

According to Jessica Herzing, CCP Project Coordinator, Phase 2 was made possible by the accomplishments of Phase 1 which was laying the groundwork and launching the project. Herzing said successes include creating a website, jump starting phase 2 by decorating the town with balloons, establishing a community network analysis with 23 distinct resident group voices, creating the CCP Volunteer Corps, results of the postcard home survey, the Cam Co Cookout, and the project’s invitation to the stakeholder focus group for the tri-county comprehensive plan. Adding to Herzing’s comments, Tina Solak, Executive Director of the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce, stated that the greatest achievement of all is being finally recognized and accepted by the community for what the project stands for.

Also in attendance at the meeting with the CCP were special guests: Meredith Hill, DCNR and Director of the Pennsylvania Wilds Program; Laurie Zierer, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Humanities council; John Schlimm, board member of the PHC and St. Marys resident.

Contact Jessica Herzing at camcoproud@gmail.com or www.thecameroncountyproject.com for more information or for fun and exciting volunteer opportunities for everyone!

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