KENNETT SQUARE—One year ago, the Longwood Rotary organization (longwoodrotary.org), led by then President Tammy Duering, conducted a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) led by Rotary members Ted Trevorrow and Dave Haradon. This has resulted in three major community improvement initiatives, financial donations of $53,800 and hundreds of volunteer community service labor hours.
Last October the organization gathered 36 leaders from the Kennett Square area to an open meeting to identify community needs, prioritize those needs and develop solutions resulting in new and substantial improvements in people’s lives in the Kennett area.
After analyzing many chart-pad comments, facts, figures and suggestions, Longwood Rotary distilled this information into five major interest areas for the Kennett community: Education, Housing, Transportation, Community Development, and Job Training. Five development committees were initiated to focus on each of these areas. All 90+ Rotary members selected a primary and secondary committee to serve on. Ultimately the members narrowed their efforts on three areas that would have the greatest impact: Education, Housing and Transportation.
Education was the number one need expressed in the Community Needs Assessment meetings and early childhood education emerged as the most important segment needing attention.
The Education Committee, led by Jackie Crego, Heather Connolly and Dawn Dohery-Kohl focused on Pre-K education Parenting Classes, Kindergarten Readiness and Adult Literacy. Members looked at the reasons parents were not attending the Chester County Maternal Health & Child Consortium’s (MCHC) (ccmchc.org) Parenting Classes for new students in the Kennett Consolidated School District (KCSD).
The committee concluded that transportation, meal preparation time, childcare and a lack of understanding of the US education system were the primary reasons families do not attend these crucial first-step classes.
The Education Committee arranged for $8,800 to support MCHC’s parenting classes in spring/fall 2019. These funds were provided by several organizations including the Longwood Rotary Foundation, West Chester Rotary’s Foundation and the local Rotary District’s Foundation. Longwood Rotary has also committed to providing volunteers for dinner preparation and childcare during the MCHC parenting classes.
An additional Pre-K Initiative is being supported with need-based scholarships including a Kindergarten Transition Program. $27,000 has been allocated by the Longwood Rotary Foundation for these scholarships as selected by the organizations providing the Pre-K programs, including Tick Tock Early Learning Center (ticktockelc.org) , First Presbyterian Church (pcks.org), Ducklings Early Learning Center (ducklingselc.com) and Kennett Square Community Pre-School Cooperative (kennettsquarepreschool.com)
The Housing Committee, led by Longwood Rotary members Mike Moyer, Dave Haradon, Rochelle Brittingham and Rob Newman initially researched several support areas including creating public advocacy initiatives (letters, meeting comments, etc.) and developing robust financial and volunteer labor commitments for improved housing.
Emphasis areas evolved to create additional “workforce housing” (i.e., impacting people who work in a community yet can’t afford to live in the community) and supporting housing repairs so people can stay in their current homes.
The committee determined the best way to support these areas is via partnering with other housing organizations including Habitat for Humanity in Chester County (hfhcc.org) and Good Neighbors (goodneighbors.org).
Longwood Rotary Foundation awarded $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity and $8,000 to Good Neighbors. Rotary also expects to provide significant volunteer labor for both organizations in the coming months/years. Other area Rotary Clubs and community partners are also being encouraged to consider both financial and volunteer support.
The Transportation Committee, led by Longwood Rotary member Jordon Gushurst and Allison Brunovszky, are working on several short and long-term initiatives to reduce transportation costs and increase availability in our area. These include:
1. Building a “trusted partner network” of service stations to perform auto repair work at a fair price. Establishing partnerships with towing companies, Technical College High Schools CHS and others who can do certain repairs (e.g. body shop) at reduced prices.
2. Creating a “car buyer’s assistance” program to support lower income families find and negotiate good value in the purchase of a vehicle.
3. Increasing the supply of “great value” used cars that are inspected/validated and sold directly to lower income families without middlemen who mark up prices and charge high interest rates
4. Building a program to increase low interest financing for vehicle purchases (supporting items #2 and #3)
5. Establishing a short-term / low-cost rental program to prevent lost work when a breakdown occurs or when shopping for a replacement vehicle.
6. Create educational offerings about save money on transportation including maintenance, insurance and purchase.
7. Developing volunteer driver programs in Chester County.
Additional information about community service initiatives or membership in the Longwood Rotary organization (longwoodrotary.org) can be obtained by contacting President Bob Curran at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: (610) 316-3109 or Jackie Crego, Development Director, email@example.com, Mobile: (585) 469-5593