Special Reports

Sparking a discussion beyond Centre Region

For months our community has been seeking solutions to dangerous and underage drinking in the Centre Region through a series of Public Issues Forums and community conversations.

However, perspectives that were missing from the conversations were the voices of our neighbors in the communities of Bellefonte, Penns Valley, Bald Eagle and Philipsburg-Osceola.

The Public Issues Forum “Alcohol: The Toxic Spill” will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 20 at the Match Factory in Bellefonte.

We are pleased to be able to offer this opportunity for parents, students and community members to come together and see where there is common ground for action.

Public Issues Forums are a conversation of the public, led by trained neutral moderators. The forums provide a way for people of diverse views and experiences to seek a shared understanding of dangerous and underage drinking and to search for common ground for action.

Dangerous and underage drinking in the neighboring communities takes shape in differing ways. It is important for the community to identify the local conditions that encourage and support these behaviors.

In our efforts to make our greater community a safe and healthy environment for kids, we have found that the Centre County Public Issues Forums are useful to help identify what we agree upon as a starting point for actions.

Why do Public Issues Forums work? According to the Kettering Foundation, “Citizens sense that they need to come together as a community to act on persistent, or ‘wicked,’ problems that threaten their community. These problems can’t be solved without public action and work. Citizens can’t gain a greater degree of control over their collective future unless they can make decisions about what they should do and what policies are best for themselves and their communities. Public deliberation increases the chances that decisions will be sound.”

Margaret Wheatley teaches, writes and consults around the world about new ways for people to organize and make change. And she says, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

The new heights of awareness and concern are evidence of this being true locally.

People from across the county are coming together to think out loud and discover how we can create a community of respect, honesty, responsibility and caring for all. So please join the next conversation May 20 at the Match Factory in Bellefonte.

Lou Ann Evans is cochairwoman of the Public Issues Forum of Centre County. Elizabeth Eckley is community mobilizer for the Centre County Communities That Care.