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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Taking the Pulse of Howard County Communities

        Anyone who has lived in Howard County for any amount of time learns that Howard County like most counties has communities with very distinct histories and characteristics.  In Howard County we see this most dramatically in the contrast with the fairly new Columbia only a few miles from Ellicott City which has a history that extends back the the Ellicott brothers and colonial times.  Talk about time travel!

      I learned this lesson years ago with the planning of senior centers in East Columbia, Elkridge, Ellicott City, Savage and Western Howard County.  The interest in building design and programming reflected the differences of the seniors in each of the communities. You can also see these differences in each of the County libraries.

      So how does an organization like the Horizon Foundation recognize the different needs of different communities in Howard County?  Horizon Community Councils.  Councils have been formed in Ellicott City, Southeast Howard County, Elkridge and Western Howard County.  I have had the opportunity recently to speak to some of these Councils and it is interesting to see how each community views their needs and issues.  The Councils have tried to be sure to engage young people in each community as a way to bring a youth perspective into each Council's work.  Each Council also identifies community projects to engage the Council members to improve their community.

The Horizon website explains the Councils role as:

"Each Council has undergone a process of data analysis, other fact finding, strategy development and priority selection using a community assets planning model. In addition, the Councils routinely interface with other community organizations operating in their locales."

"In their entirety, the Councils play increasingly important roles in Horizon Foundation project development and grantmaking. Councils advise The Horizon Foundation about local needs, help in outreach to local communities, and collaborate to achieve change.Made up of people who live or work in their communities, the Councils advise the Foundation about issues that are important in their communities, recommend ways to address those issues and, with the Foundation's support, implement their own projects.  Council projects vary from area to area and are predicated on need."

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