COS Exec Committee Plans Next Steps after Stellar Designation is Awarded to Marshall County Crossroads

The Office of Community and Rural Affairs announced this year’s Regional Stellar Community Thursday morning and Marshall County Crossroads received the distinction.

A Stellar-bration will be held in the region on Thursday, December 19 to celebrate this accomplishment.

While the Constellation of Starke (COS) did not get this year’s designation, as a finalist region about $333,000 will come into the County to support community development.

The other finalists, Jay! County and Henry County’s Safe and Welcome Region, will also receive the same amount of funding for that purpose.

OCRA officials commended the Constellation of Starke Executive Committee and the community for all the hard work that was apparent in the Letter of Intent turned in April, the Regional Development Plan that was submitted in September and the presentation that was provided in November.

Stellar Communities Program Manager Michael Sinnet noted that the region reps should be proud. He commented that the community support has been evident and noticeable improvements have been made since initial meetings were held with him back in 2018.

The COS Executive Committee met after the announcement and already started to strategize about how to utilize the available grant dollars and secure additional funding to start supporting some of projects identified in the RDP.

Officials are making plans to apply again in the next round and identified the importance of continuing community engagement efforts and using the momentum from this process to further progress the region.  

As was highlighted in November’s presentation, a plethora of progress has been made in the COS region in this year alone and there is a refreshed sense of identity for local residents.

Another takeaway from this is that strong bonds have been formed, connecting and strengthening the region.

Representatives from Knox, North Judson, Hamlet, Koontz Lake, San Pierre, Bass Lake and other unincorporated areas of Starke County have joined together behind this effort and the regional mind set will remain in place despite the lack of a designation this year.

When an initial public meeting was held back in May, nearly 100 people from all across the County turned up to provide feedback and play a part in the Stellar process.

Throughout the summer months, individuals of all ages stopped by the Constellation of Starke booths at various fairs and festivals to share their stories about what they like about Starke County and what they’d like to see.

Since establishing a presence on social media back in May, Constellation of Starke has received more than 660 likes and followers. The special video that was created by Mirth and Whimsy for the final presentation has reached over 15,000 people after being up for less than month.

These are just some of the examples of the impact that the Stellar process has had on community members and the amount of support that has been gathered so far.

Stellar feedback meetings will be held in 2020 on February 10th, 12th and 13th.

During these meetings non-designated finalists will receive input from program officials and will be informed about projects that would be eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding to allow the communities to move forward with funds available. 

Prior to that, the Constellation of Starke Executive Committee plans to meet in January to start outlining how to keep the community engaged and move forward with goals identified in the Regional Development Plan.