Do you dream of improving parks and making green spaces cleaner? There’s a board for that. Or how about making sure LGBTQ rights are preserved in your area? Yep, there’s a board for that.
A new program from the Chamber of Business and Industry in Centre County, called ABC Essentials, aims to get residents more involved in their government through joining authorities, boards and commissions (ABCs) that guide local government decision-making.
During the meetings, participants will be able to learn more about a particular ABC, better understand the role of a volunteer and have their questions answered, according to the CBICC press release. Municipal officials and citizens serving on an authority, board or commission will present information.
Irene Miller, vice president of engagement at the CBICC, said local governments reached out to the chamber about getting the word out for volunteers.
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“We were hearing from them that they need to stack up these volunteer authorities, boards and commissions with more people,” she said.
CBICC wanted to create awareness of the many opportunities to serve on ABCs, said Lesley Kistner, vice president of communications and marketing. The chamber hopes to entice people to learn more by making ABC Essentials a series of monthly, informal gatherings that are free and open to the public, she said.
Dave Pribulka, Ferguson Township manager, said ABC Essentials is beneficial to local government by simply getting the word out that citizens can make a tangible difference in their communities.
“I think if people get exposure to what (ABCs) are, what volunteer opportunities are available ... my hope is that they will be more interested in participating and getting involved,” he said.
Though some might be discouraged by what they feel is a steep learning curve, Pribulka said there’s no requirement for previous government or committee experience.
“You can come to the table really with just an inquisitive mind, an interest or passion,” he said. “A lot of the procedure and the issues and the other topics of substance can all be learned as you go.”
Each gathering of ABC Essentials will feature a different speaker, Miller said. One day, for example, the speaker might be an employee of a government entity, and the next it might be a current member of a sewer authority. CBICC wanted “diverse voices and different perspectives,” she said.
The program is “a great way to have all those questions answered and find your fit,” Kistner said. Each municipality contains as many as 20 different authorities, boards and commissions, so residents have the opportunity to pick which one suits them the most.
Miller said some of the boards and authorities were part of what attracted her to the State College area. “People told me, ‘Oh, we do such a good job planning for these open spaces,’ ” she said.
Well planned green spaces and organized committees that oversee them “mesh nicely with the live-work balance part of our mission,” she said.
“If you want to be an agent of change in your community and you want to have a positive impact ... then this is really an excellent first step, just to understand how things function,” Pribulka said. “From there, you can build and implement change.”
2019 ABC Essentials program schedule:
- Tuesday, Jan. 29 – ABC Essentials kick-off
- Wednesday, Feb. 20 – “The Future’s Blueprint,” featuring Ferguson Township Planning Commission
- Tuesday, March 19 – “Developing Opportunities,” featuring College Township Industrial Development Authority
- Wednesday, April 17 – “Embracing All Perspectives,” featuring State College Borough LGBTQ Advisory Committee
- Wednesday, May 1 – “All Aboard!” featuring CATA
- Wednesday, June 26 – “Grab Your Sunscreen,” featuring Centre Region Parks & Recreation
- Tuesday, July 9 – “A Water Droplet’s Life,” featuring University Area Joint Authority and the State College Borough Water Authority
- Wednesday, Aug. 21 – “Got A Plane to Catch,” featuring University Park Airport Authority
- Tuesday, Sept. 10 – “Leisure Time,” featuring Harris Township Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and Library Board
- Tuesday, Oct. 15 – “Room to Run Wild,” featuring Patton Township Open Space Stewardship Committee and Open Space Preservation Task Force
- Tuesday, Nov. 12 – ABC Essentials program conclusion
Visit cbicc.org to RSVP for the educational sessions.