Third Community Heart & Soul Project Launched in Hancock County

McComb was the first Hancock County community to be awarded the Heart & Soul grant. Photograph courtesy of Community Heart & Soul

The Findlay-Hancock Community Foundation has approved a third Community Heart & Soul project in Hancock County. Community Heart & Soul is a non-profit organization whose mission is to build stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant small cities and towns across the U.S. The partnership between the Foundation and Heart & Soul brings resources and opportunities to small cities and towns in Hancock County. 

“The Community Foundation provides the funding ($140,000 over two years) for the process [as well as] the coaching and training needed for the program,” said Brian Treece, President & CEO of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. 

“The Foundation will select a community in Hancock County whose approach best aligns with the Community Heart & Soul framework,” Treece said. They are looking for a community who “involves youth in a meaningful way, demonstrates adequate readiness [for the process], and has the capacity to complete the work.” 

The grant was awarded to McComb in 2015 and to Mt. Blanchard in 2017. 

McComb’s Success Story 

“As a Foundation, we believe we are at our best when we work together. The biggest concerns in our communities can be best addressed when everyone has a voice in making a difference,” explained Brian Treece, President & CEO of The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation. Photograph courtesy of Community Heart & Soul

After the loss of a major retailer and a failed railroad terminal expansion project in 2013, McComb was ready for revitalization. McComb applied for and became the first to receive the Heart & Soul award in Hancock County. 

“During the Heart & Soul process, a volunteer team of residents meets with fellow community members [and uses] story gathering, story listening, and story sharing [to develop] ideas for action and ideas people have for the future,” said Jane Lafleaur, Senior Director of Market Development for Community Heart & Soul. 

The focus for McComb was to revive the local economy and bridge the divide between residents of McComb and Hoytville. The following outcomes were achieved based on this focus: English as a Second Language (ESL) classes were created at a local church, the beloved Cookie Fest was revived, new playground equipment was installed at a local park and a new bus stop was added in Hoytville, helping to connect the two communities. 

“One thing we’ve consistently seen throughout our community is when people come together and work to address something in the community they love, amazing things can happen. Together, we can do our best work,” Treece said. 

Community Engagement in Mt. Blanchard

Multiple grants were awarded in 2020 for Mt. Blanchard, including an interpretive study for the Heritage Trail through the Ohio Humanities Council.                                                                                                                                                           Photograph courtesy of Community Heart & Soul

In 2017, Mt. Blanchard partnered with The Foundation to begin Heart & Soul work in their community. The goal for Mt. Blanchard was to energize community involvement and revive a lagging economy. 

According to Lafleaur, Heart & Soul is a “resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it.” The Heart & Soul team collected over 200 stories from community members. 

“It’s important to engage residents in their own community because they are the best equipped to identify the concerns, brainstorm ways to address the concern and make lasting community change, and take ownership in doing their part in their own neighborhood,” Treece said. 

Community input led to the completion of many projects, including Heritage Trail improvements, town clean up days and opportunities, family activities and concerts, and the establishment of a food cabinet in Town Hall. 

Opportunity Awaits 

“After so much success with the first two communities, we’re excited to see what comes next with the third,” said Cassie Turner, Community Engagement Officer at the Foundation. “We’re looking for an engaged group of community members with passion for their village or town. Ideally they’ll have a variety of voices represented on their team and momentum toward widespread change already.” 

“We are looking forward to building new relationships and working together to improve the quality of life for another community,” said Treece.

The application deadline is April 1st, 2022. To schedule an exploratory meeting and obtain an application, contact Cassie Turner at cturner@community-foundation.com or 419-425-1100.