By Vinde Wells
Two of the organizers of Oregon Together are hopeful that a series of upcoming planning sessions will reveal what Oregon residents truly want for their community.
Steering committee member Terry Schuster said five upcoming community planning sessions are aimed at getting participants to share their goals and dreams for Oregon.
“There’s no agenda, no pre-conceived projects. Everyone in the group wants to make Oregon better,” said Schuster, who is also a city commissioner. “My guiding principle behind this whole project is that it’s we the people of Oregon.”
Rick Ryland, also a steering committee member, said they are hoping for 60 people to participate in the planning process.
Community planning sessions are scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11, 18 and 25 and May 2 and 9 at the Rock River Center 810 S. 10th St., Oregon.
Oregon Together has hired the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA), based at Western Illinois University, to help through its MAPPING the Future of Your Community program.
Experts from WIU will attend the planning, or mapping, sessions to facilitate the process.
Their role, Schuster said, is simply to help get the ideas for projects out there, prioritize them, and then determine what is needed to make them happen.
“The people from Western have no skin in the game,” he said. “They just know how to facilitate.”
After the planning sessions the facilitators will continue to work with community members to assist with implementation, he said.
The money for hiring IIRA is coming from donations from local businesses, Schuster said.
“No city or other government funds are being used,” he said.
The IIRA is a branch of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development, and its purpose is to assist economic development in communities with populations less than 20,000.
It is also funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and WIU.
Several IIRA staff members also teach in WIU’s rural affairs program.
Schuster and Ryland credited Chris Busker, who works at Stronghold Castle, with suggesting IIRA and its community mapping process.
Busker is familiar with IIRA from when he attended WIU.
A group of 19 interested people met Oct. 15 to learn more about the MAPPING the Future of Your Community program.
The Oregon Together Steering Committee, led by Donna Mann, was formed then.
All Oregon residents are encouraged to take part in the planning sessions, but are asked to attend all five.
“It’s a big commitment,” Schuster said.
Because the meeting will be held over the dinner hour, a full meal will be served each night.
Anyone who is interested in being a part of the planning sessions, is asked to contact Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-751-8756.
To learn more about the Community MAPPING process,visit: http://mappingthefuture.org/.
To get connected with Together Oregon, like its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OregonTogether/.
Hands On Oregon
Late last year, Hands On Oregon, a new volunteer organization was formed with the purpose of enriching the lives of Oregon citizens through local caring and creating excitement through volunteerism.
The south side of Conover Square, a historic century-old commercial building in Oregon that was once the a piano factory, is the organization’s first project.
Lou VanderWyst, owner of Conover Square, and Ryland, who is also a board member of Hands On Oregon, spent the day before Christmas shoring up the sagging south side of the former piano factory on the bank of the Rock River.
“We think Conover is important to this community and is well worth saving,” Ryland said in December.
When HOO offered it assistance, VanderWyst had already shored up the inside of the south wall with jacks and was doing what he could to deal with the problem.
HOO has partnered with the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council to use its 501c3 (not-for-profit) credentials while working to get their own.
The HOO board is seeking donations and volunteer labor for the south wall project.
Ryland hopes to raise $100,000 through donations to finish the wall.
The two-story building with a full basement started as the Schiller Piano Company in 1890.
It remained in operation until 1971.
The original part of the building, VanderWyst said, was built in 1893. Two brick additions were built in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
The building became the Conover Square Shopping Mall in 1975, and at first was filled with small shops offering a variety of merchandise.
To contribute to Hands on Oregon, make checks payable to Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, and on the memo line write Hands On Oregon.
Checks can be mailed to Hands on Oregon, PO Box 244, Oregon IL 61061.
All contributions are tax deductible.