Strong Volunteer Base Highlighted During Starke County Asset Mapping Workshop

When local officials met for an asset mapping workshop on Tuesday, they were encouraged to focus on 7 different capitals; Financial, Built, Natural, Cultural, Social, Political and Human.

The workshop facilitator and OCRA Project Manager Michael Sinnet emphasized the importance of finding specific assets that fit into these categories and identifying where strengths and deficiencies exist.

Sinnet asked the group, “Can you put together a fully formed regional development plan if one of these seven capitals is lacking or missing? Probably not.”

A few examples that were provided for financial assets were the Community Foundation, local banks, private donors and businesses as well as KIRPC, REMC and NIPSCO. Some of the natural assets that were highlighted included lakes, rivers and various specialty farms and the county forest.

For built assets, people talked about the courthouse, town and city hall buildings, fire stations, the Industrial Park, Bailey’s Discount Center and the Kankakee Valley Fish and Wildlife Building. Cultural assets included the Mint and Bass Lake Fests as well as the Drive-in, the Historical Society, as well as the various community events put on in the parks and offered by the Chamber of Commerce.

As far as the political capital goes,  people said they felt that Starke County has an advantage because there is a familiarity between constituents and their local representatives and that in itself is an asset. However, it was mentioned that there is a bit of a disadvantage at the state level as the county is split between congressional districts.

For human capital, the SCILL Center, WorkOne, the Youth Club, 4-H, and the Justice Center Therapeutic Community programs were just a few of the items discussed. When considering what Starke County’s social capital would include, individuals mentioned the Fire and Police Departments, the local radio station and newspaper, the Kiwanis Club, churches and schools.

Sinnet went on to say that while it is important to have all of these capitals fleshed out and to understand how they can intermingle there is one that is the most important and that is the social capital.

He explained “Social capital will bond to things in the community; family, friends, neighbors, work associates,” Sinnet explained, “or they will bridge to organizations, institutions, programs.”

One of the major strengths that continuously came up as attendees discussed what Starke County has to offer is a strong sense of altruism and a dedicated volunteer base. Many people felt that compared to bigger cities, the communities around here have people who go out of their way to help.

However, individuals did recognize that often times, it is the same people volunteering and they’re typically focused on their own specific projects. Finding ways to engage the apathetic or the unmotivated portions of the community in the same way was discussed as a potential way to lighten the workload and avoid “burn-out” with the people who continuously volunteer.

Something else that was highlighted was the fact that, while there is a sense connection, it can be limited to the people who come from the same area. Idenitfying common values and goals to link each of the various communities together in the same way that they feel connected to one other is a way that Starke County would be able to create cohesion amongst its residents and improve the social capital.