Community members gathered at Growing Branches for Christ ministry to hear a presentation from Coalition for a Healthy Community – Oxford, OH area, to better understand how to face challenges in the community. Amy Macechko, right, leads the conversation as community members identify health issues in the Fayette County area. Staff photo by Matt Sharp
Community members gathered at Growing Branches for Christ ministry to hear a presentation from Coalition for a Healthy Community – Oxford, OH area, to better understand how to face challenges in the community. Amy Macechko, right, leads the conversation as community members identify health issues in the Fayette County area. Staff photo by Matt Sharp
Making a marked change in the overall well being of a community is hard. Doing so without a plan is nearly impossible.

The first stages of a plan to improve the health of the community were put in place as the Coalition for a Healthy Community paid a visit to Fayette County.

The coalition is based in Oxford, OH and has been using the same coalition mentality of different organizations working together as a whole to make a change, while also helping each of the organizations maintain their own unique identities.

The local Seven Mountains Group contacted the Oxford coalition about coming to the area and sharing their strategies and knowledge of this type of work with the community. First, and the most obvious stage in making a change is identifying the problem. To do this, leaders from the community in attendance at the event broke off into groups to pinpoint problems in the community. There were no solutions given yet, it was just a time to identify health problems based off of community statistics.

From there each group shared the issues they had identified and they were written up on posters as a bullet-pointed list. The community members then all voted on what they felt was the biggest health issue facing the community.

That biggest health issue identified by the group was the opioid epidemic in the community. Amy Macechko, Coalition for a Healthy Community‘s Community Coordinator, and Kate Rousmaniere who is a part of the Coalition and former Mayor of Oxford OH, lead the presentation to the community members from our area on how to begin to work towards solving that problem.

“You need a shared vision for the community and stay true to the vision,” Macechko said. “There’s a lot of great work in this world, but if we spread ourselves too thin we won’t solve anything.”

Macechko emphasized doing things with the community, not for the community, and gave an example.

“Very well meaning, good intentioned people, for years have been doing things for the residents, nobody ever asked them, ‘What is it you need?’” Macechko said. “Youth, how many times do we sit around the table and go ‘Youth today, they need more activities, well they’ll enjoy this. Let’s organize a program.’ Will they? They need to be at the table. Nothing about us without us. Make sure that the work you’re doing and who you’re doing it for are there at the table to make the decisions.”

As for getting other groups to buy in to working together, for a similar vision Macechko said that it takes the ability of an organizer to show how working together is mutually beneficial for both groups from their perspective.

The biggest thing the coalition members emphasized was patience, things will not and can not change overnight. A group does not gain 20 members overnight. Progress is slow, sometimes it’s just adding a single new person at a meeting who goes and tells their friends is the progress for that meeting. Persistence is key to solving an issue. As Albert Einstein said: “it’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” That same adage applies here. Any one group does not know all the answers, but if they stick with the problem, they will learn and find solutions.
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