July/August Partnership Update

Published in July/August ‘Around South Mountain’ newsletter

As promised, you are among the first to learn about the founding of the Friends of the South Mountain Partnership, a collaboration with The Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC)! The creation of this group happened when a long-time goal of simply having a “donate now” button on our homepage collided with our strategic plan. As directed by our strategic action plan, much of our work over the past two years has focused on how to promote this region and our partners by growing the South Mountain Partnership network’s recognition while also increasing our ability to build relationships with a variety of partners. Collaborating with TFEC on the creation of a Friends group came naturally, as friends groups are familiar to our region and it was the best way to provide ways for a wider variety of people and organizations to engage.

The mission of the group is to provide resources to support the work of the South Mountain Partnership. It is already delivering. For the first time, we will accept memberships and federally tax deductible donations, formalize a corporate sponsorship program, and gain administrative support for our trademark annual events like the Spring and Fall Partnership Meetings, the Annual “Power of the Partnership” Celebration, as well as Speakers Series and workshops. It is important for me to highlight that this is just the beginning and that the Friends group will evolve over time. More information is available in this edition of ‘Around South Mountain’, by visiting our new webpages, and our membership and donation page on the TFEC website.

The South Mountain Partnership works best as a network of people and organizations working toward common goals. This was a truly grassroots effort and many heartfelt thanks to our committee members for their hard work on this – Gail Witwer and Stephanie Williams for guiding the Leadership Committee through the learning and finalization process with TFEC, Sarah Kipp and Susan Richards for becoming the first signatories of the Friends group, Janet Pollard and staff for building our new webpages, and Carolyn Seibert-Drager and the Communications Subcommittee for steering our communications strategy.

We cannot go too long in these times without mentioning COVID-19. In my previous update, we were all hoping for a safe and quick reopening. However, with cases rising again much is still unclear. There are many tough decisions still ahead about what our society should prioritize and in what ways we should invest our financial and social resources. While considering how to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and what to tell your representatives, community leaders, and other people of influence, keep this at front of mind: each decision will either move us closer to, or further away from sustainability, health, and justice. Think long and hard about what we have envisioned for future – a landscape of conserved resources and vibrant communities sharing a common sense of place and collaborating on well-planned growth and sustainable economic development.

Our fall meeting agenda will focus on ways that partnering organizations can better advocate for resources and better communicate and engage with residents. In addition, albeit virtually, we are planning to create breakout rooms for you to engage with others throughout the region who are doing similar work so that you can connect, network, and energize yourselves and your work. If you have ideas or suggestions for ways to enhance the Fall Partnership Meeting, feel free to reach out to me at khess@appalachiantrail.org.

Lastly, there was no shortage of good news for this edition – even in the midst of the pandemic – and we could not include it all. There is very strong content in this edition, thanks to our committee members and staff, and further changes have been made to improve the newsletter, all with the goal of providing you with the best that the South Mountain Partnership has to offer. As always, please let us know what you think!

Katie Hess, Director of the South Mountain Partnership