Citizen-led project aims for community improvement

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

ALEDO — Mercer County, Better Together held it’s final community

forum July 6 at La Belle Vie in Aledo. The forum engaged residents throughout Mercer County in discussions on the future of their community and the process of the Mercer County, Better Together initiative. This forum was held in a casual, mixer-style.

In total, the four community forums engaged over 120 residents of Mercer County. The forums introduced the concept of the countywide planning process, identified current assets, discussed projects that have occurred over the past 10 years, ways to improve the quality of life in Mercer County, and encouraged involvement from participants going forward.

Mercer County, Better Together is a citizen-led initiative that will celebrate the

history of Mercer County, identify the common values rooted in the community,

and search for a unified vision for Mercer County and its citizens.

Now that the first community forums have been completed, the next phase of the process has begun, starting with a formal request to the Looser-Flake Charitable Foundation for support of the next 18-month process. The process will include wide-range planning and organization based upon feedback from the community forums and additional community engagement initiatives. The process will replicate previous successful community planning by neighboring communities, utilizing a proven template called The Community Heart & Soul Process.

The Community Heart & Soul Process has been used in communities such as Monticello, Iowa, and Galesburg, and helps communities plan for the future by investigating and documenting the emotional attachments residents have for their communities. Through understanding the special qualities their communities have, residents are able to then use this information to develop goals and strategies that enhance quality of life, expand economic opportunities, and increase civic pride and participation in the area.

The process will provide a platform for every member of Mercer County’s voice to be heard and a chance to get involved in an initiative that seeks to better the way of life for the entire community.

The civic engagement process to date has been supported by the Looser Flake Charitable Foundation. The Looser-Flake Charitable Foundation was started through the estates of sisters Dorothy Looser-Flake and Roberta Looser. Their Mercer County upbringing and careers as educators greatly influenced their decision to direct the Foundation to advance economic development and further cultural and educational opportunities in Mercer County.