Archive of ‘community development’ category

4-H youth, local library inspire “Pick Up Laurel Day”

An overcast day with a good chance of rain didn’t stop 35 motivated volunteer members of the Laurel community who gathered to help “Pick up Laurel.”  The rain held off, helping volunteers efficiently span out across designated sectors of the historic town on Saturday, March 16. Their mission – to clean up the crumpled cans, paper and discarded bric-a-brac that had collected on curbs, sidewalks and other public areas.  Two hours later, 22 bags were filled with trash and hoisted away– giving the small town of Laurel that extra sparkle it needed and deserved.

Pick Up Laurel is a two-part community project sponsored by the Laurel Public Library, Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Laurel Historical Society in partnership with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Engaging Youth, Serving Community (EYSC) project in Laurel.

Engaging Youth, Serving Communities is a service learning program.  Youth and adults learn about an issue, bring it to the community for discussion, and then do something about the issue.  On Saturday, March 16, a great deal was accomplished.  The second part, Walk Laurel, is a update of the Laurel Historical Society’s Walking Tour of Laurel Brochure, which will be premiered at the upcoming St. Phillips Strawberry Festival May 21.

Pick Up Laurel Team ready to go!

Saturday morning, volunteers were greeted by the EYSC team, signed in, and were given “Geek the Library” T-shirts to wear before being divided into small teams.  Litter can assume many forms and can carry risks – so safety precautions were reviewed. Each team received gloves, a supply of bright green trash bags, a first aid kit and bottled water.

Dr. Bill McGowan a UD Extension community development agent and the project’s coordinator opened the event and thanked everyone for donating their Saturday and participating in the cleanup effort.  He complimented the group, in particular the Laurel Library, for beginning the conversation that resulted in the pickup plan. Before embarking on their civic mission, McGowan urged the volunteers to take in more than just trash, urging them to look beyond their target paper, plastic and tin and embrace the charm and unique characteristics of Laurel. “It’s a great town with a lot of history,” McGowan said.  “You have a note pad! Use your camera! Tell us the story. Look at the houses, enjoy yourself. Take pictures of the good stuff. It’s not just about the trash.”

Leaving from their central location at the Laurel Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center (train station) volunteers ventured outward, equipped with maps that marked out sectors and significantly littered “hot spots.”  Groups quickly filled their first supply of trash bags and called into the Chamber for reinforcements.

While they walked the neighborhood, the teams noted potential issues that might need attention, such sidewalks and storm drains that need repair. One group the Friends of Trap Pond, tackled a small ravine on 6thStreet near Rossakatum Branch and filled two bags with litter.  Another encountered the first snake of the season – a garter–and braved on with their clean-up efforts!  Another group realized just how close the sidewalk is to the very busy West Street.

A hot spot in Laurel gets some attention

With a combined 70 hours of work, the community effort had amassed a small mountain of lime green bags and covered six of their targeted 12 sectors.

Wendy Roberts, director of the Laurel Public Library, thanked the volunteers for their hard work.  “Laurel is a better place because of you!” she said.  Don Dykes, Laurel Chamber executive director, suggested, “Maybe the service clubs in Laurel could adopt a section and pick up Laurel every quarter!”  Laurel Mayor John Shwed, who could not attend, sent along his appreciation, “I congratulate all on volunteering their time and effort to clean up the Town of Laurel.  If I did not have this other previous commitment I would gladly join you.”

A good morning’s work!

McGowan acknowledged the following organizations, companies and individuals for their support and sponsorship: Eva Dupont of ServPro of Sussex County.  ServPro signed on as a corporate sponsor providing a truck and supplies for the pick-up, pizza for the volunteers and joined the clean-up.  Jay Hall and Amanda Brown from the Delaware Department of Transportation and Mike Love, UD Extension safety agent and member of Safe Kids Sussex County provided safety vests, and Glenn Stubbolo, volunteer coordinator for Delaware State Parks for guidance and most importantly the Youth Helping Community team: Jerrica Robertson, Samantha Purnell, Darlene Murat, Cindy Murat, Kimmora Tatman and Brandon Bradshaw.

Pick up Laurel Day emerged from a town conversation sponsored by the Laurel Public Library during the “Geek the Library” initiative.  In the conversation the opportunity to start a 4-H program Engaging Youth, Serving Communities emerged.  Wendy Roberts and Dr. McGowan agreed to establish the program.  Laurel youth identified Town Appearance as the primary issue.  The group developed a discussion guide that offered three ways to approach the town’s appearance; Safety, Economic Development Opportunities and Pride in our Town.  The youth team hosted and led the forum attended by approximately 20 people including the mayor, council president, chamber of the commerce and citizens.  The discussion was lively with taking pride in our town certainly the most energetic topic.  After the conversation, the group decided to focus on two projects, Pick up Laurel Day and a Walk Laurel brochure.

Over two months of weekly meetings youth and adults developed a plan to identify and solve problems.  They created a supply list and budget, met with the executive director of the Chamber, they walked Laurel and took pictures, looked at houses and parks for areas that needed special attention, they divided Laurel into sections for clean-up, developed a poster and recruited volunteers. Through these combined efforts, “Pick Up Laurel” was ready for launch.

“All good work starts with a conversation,” McGowan said. “We are here today because successful communities know how to talk about what is important to them and then do something about it.”

Two small town forums hosted by the Laurel Public Library sparked this activity.  Putting words into action is what distinguished this community effort from other organized clean-up activities.

Delaware Cooperative Extension awards excellence at annual conference

Mary Argo, 2011 Director Spirit of Extension Award

Cooperative Extension professionals from University of Delaware and Delaware State University met on Tues. Oct. 18, for their annual conference in Dover, to celebrate their unique partnership and excellence in Extension outreach programing that serves Delaware’s families and agricultural constituents.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Linda Kay Benning, executive director of Northeast Cooperative Extension Director and associate director for Extension and Outreach at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, located in Washington D.C. Benning remarked on Extension’s rich history, the value of its current programming and the future of Extension funding at regional and national levels in the 21st century. Benning addressed the importance in raising awareness of the diverse programming that Cooperative Extension delivers to families, farmers, businesses and industry.

In recognition of Delaware’s Extension contribution the past year, the 2011 Cooperative Extension Awards of Excellence were announced:

Integration of Extension and Research Award:

  •  Gordon Johnson, Maggie Moor-Orth, Richard Taylor, Phillip Sylvester, Rose Ogutu, Brigid McCrea, Megan, John Clendaniel, Dahlia O’Brien, Mike Wasylkowski, Lakhe Paudel, and Joann Walston.

Positively Outrageous Service Award for Innovative Marketing of Extension – Individual:

  •   Carol Scott – 4-H Educator Afterschool program “Moving Youth Ahead.”
  •   Mary Argo – 4-H Educator in Sussex County.

Positively Outrageous Service Aware for Innovative Marketing of Extension – Team:

  • Tracy Wootten, Maggi Moor-Orth, and Sussex County Master Gardeners:  Brent Marsh, Jessica Clark, Jane Casazza, Susan Trone, Tracy Mulvaney, Mary Perkins, Mary Noel, Mary Hall, Marge Lewis and Linda Peters for:  “Peter Rabbit’s Adventure in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden,” a mobile theatrical presentation for children.

Outstanding Programming Award:

Bill's program, The Resourceful Leader, was recognized as an Outstanding Extension Program

  • Tracy Wootten, Laurie Wolinski, and Maria Pippidis – for “Annie’s Project” which supports and empowers women in agriculture.
  •  Maggie Moor-Orth, Tracy Wootten, and Brian Kunkel – “How Do You Like Me Now – Insects and Their Damage” and;
  • Gordon Johnson, Maria Pippidis, Kathleen Splane, Phillip Sylvester, Anne Camasso, Tracy Wootten, and Cory Whaley – “Food Safety on the Farm”
  • Karen Johnston, Michelle Ernst, and Amelia Uffelman – “4-H Health Rocks Program – Youth tobacco prevention program.”
  • Bill McGowan, “The Resourceful Leader”-Community development and economic gardening initiative.





Recipients of the Director’s Spirit of Extension Awards: Ernesto López, Rhonda Martell, Kathleen Splane and Albert Essel.

Ernie Lopez recipient of the 2011 Director's Spirit of Extension Award and Dr. Jan Seitz

Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) the association of Extension professionals presented the following awards:

  • Adult Outstanding Volunteer Award- Hetty Francke.
  • Youth Outstanding Volunteer Award- Terra Tatman.
  • Group Outstanding Volunteer Award- Emerson Farms.
  • Friend of Extension- Agilent Technologies.
  • Meritorious Support Service Award- Sharon Webb.

Delaware State University recognized two Extension professionals:

  • Brigid McCrea – “1890 Administrator’s Award” for Extension Agriculture and Youth. Development.
  • Andy Wetherhill – “1890 Administrator’s Award for Diversity” in Agricultural Extension programs.

Earlier in the morning, the conference’s 100 attendees separated into agriculture, family and consumer science and 4-H youth development groups and discussed initiatives and exchanged new ideas on how to effectively reach their constituents’ future needs.

The ag group focused on how to enhance an $8 billion agriculture industry given current economic challenges.  Items of note included the ability to understand and anticipate the needs of the ag community, the capacity to engage those needs in a timely fashion and development, and implementation of a strategy that creates an understanding and support for the value of Cooperative Extension.

Family and consumer science and EFNEP agents discussed what they see as emerging issues in nutrition, food safety, financial management and family well-being and how best to effectively communicate revised guidelines and research to local constituencies.

Through their diverse programming, 4-H reaffirmed that effective outreach to Delaware’s youth must rest on eight principles: a positive relationship with a caring adult, a safe emotional and physical environment, an inclusive environment, engagement in learning, opportunity for mastery, opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future, opportunity for self-determination and opportunity to value and practice service to others.

Tuesday’s gathering marked the last Extension Conference under the tenure of Associate Dean and Director of Cooperative Extension, Janice Seitz, who is retiring in the spring, 2012. The ninth conference however, will not be Seitz last. In 2003, Seitz established the Lighthouse Award as a special honor bestowed to an Extension professional who “lights the way for others.” Each year, the holder of the Extension beacon has the sole responsibility to pass the award onto a deserving colleague. Doug Crouse, 2010 recipient, carefully considered his many options, but concluded on one obvious choice, Dr. Jan Seitz, the founder of the award.

The award assures Seitz’s  return to next year’s conference to once again confer the award. But Seitz’s future participation with Delaware Extension was never in doubt.  Though stepping out of her leadership role, Seitz plans to lend support and resources whenever needed.   “This is the greatest job I have ever had,” Seitz said. “I love Extension so much.”


Images of the conference are available on UD Flickr site:

Sussex County is “Open for Business” at Sept. 26 development fair, Georgetown

Sussex County Is Open for Business

Free Business Development Fair Assembles County-Wide Experts

Sussex County, DE, (August 25, 2011)–“Sussex County is Open for Business,” the first in a series of free monthly business development fairs, will be held on Monday, Sept. 26, 8:30-10:30 a.m., at the Sussex County West Complex Building, Georgetown. The event will be sponsored by the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee (SEDAC) and hosted by the Sussex County Council. Call 302-856-1555 for a reservation.

“Sussex County is Open for Business” is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs wishing to identify financial and business coaching resources, brainstorm with experts and obtain advice on business fundamentals. The event is also useful for existing business owners looking to improve and expand their companies to learn of County, State and Federal programs to support business growth.

Participants will include:

  • Delaware Center for Enterprise Development-DSU
  • Delaware Economic Development Office
  • Delaware Small Business & Technology Development Center
  • DEMEP (Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership)
  • DTCC-Entrepreneur Center
  • Southern Delaware Tourism
  • SCORE Delaware
  • Sussex County Economic Development Office
  • U.S. Small Business Administration
  • YWCA-Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship

“SEDAC’s goal is to bring jobs and increased prosperity to Sussex County,” explains Chairperson Patti Grimes. “This series of events, bringing together county-wide business resources, is just one of the ways we’re seeking to galvanize economic development.”

SEDAC (  is a nonprofit organization comprised of  business, education, Sussex County Cooperative Extension and government representatives who are committed to attracting, expanding and retaining business in Sussex County. It seeks to support existing businesses, foster entrepreneurship, facilitate improvements to the county’s infrastructure and build a well-trained workforce.

Media Contact: Mark Reeve  302-841-8379

Sewing the seeds of economic development, resourceful leaders create jobs in Sussex County

Be. Do. Cause. With three simple words as their mantra, the inaugural 2010 class of Resourceful Leaders celebrated a unique commencement in June, equipped with renewed confidence as individual and community leaders. Eager to apply specifically honed personal goals to Be more effective where they work and live, Do more than just talk about change, the empowered leaders will Cause measurable economic prosperity through creation of new jobs in Sussex County.

The Inaugural 2010 Resourceful Leader Class. From left to right, Back Row: Mike Nally, Frank Brady, Colin Walls, Patti Grimes, Rob Rider, Scott Thomas, Ryan Williamson, Bill McGowan. Seated: Melody Booker, Saulo Chavez, Lindsay Maurer. Not present for photo: Brenda Whitehurst.

Each participant had a personal stretch goal to create at least one new job in Sussex County. They are giving themselves six months. Two have already met their goal.

Modeled after graduate-level seminars, the collaborative exercise, conducted at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown during May and June, focused on economic gardening. Each of the 10 class members, all who work full time jobs in the county, made a commitment to attend seven, five-hour evening sessions, challenging each other to develop natural talents into performance, build confidence through encouragement, and turn inventive ideas into real, tangible results.

Launching an economic gardening program through resourceful leadership was a natural progression for Bill McGowan, University of Delaware Community Development Extension agent and co-director of the Sustainable Community Enhancement Initiative. Having facilitated initiatives such as the two-year agricultural leadership program LEADelaware, workshops on heritage tourism, and multiple town hall interactions to define the Heart and Soul of Sussex County, and now working with SEDAC, the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee, McGowan was acutely aware of the economic challenges facing Sussex County. Delving into a variety of issues and hearing from equally diverse interests, McGowan instinctively knew where the solution could be found – with Sussex Countians themselves acting as economic gardeners.

“Sussex Countians are conscientious, caring, community -minded people,” McGowan observed. “They are willing to help each other.  It may sound simple, but in committing to this program, you grow yourself, you can grow your organization, and grow your community.”

Saulo Chavez, administrative executive of a Georgetown community health care center, agreed. “This class helped us to realize – we hear on the news how the rate of unemployment is so high. We wait for government to help,” Chavez said. “It is up to us to create those jobs and it us up to us to encourage job creation. We are not waiting for someone else to do that.”

The determination to grow the economy was evident throughout the group.  Each of the 10, representing the arts, charitable foundations, financial management, health services, non-profits, auto service, manufacturing, home builders, land developers and tourism, examined their personality profiles to better respect the different approaches that exist across arenas. After the first session, a strong bond was formed in an atmosphere where “Be, Do, and Cause” really meant something. It meant they had to produce. It meant taking their collective commitment to serve Sussex County and delivering something tangible to benefit a larger good.

To get Sussex’s economic garden properly tilled, McGowan turned to his friend Mike Nally, founder of Lead Your Way Solutions and partner on other leadership training projects, most notably with the current two-year class of LEADelaware. McGowan’s admiration for Nally as a skilled leader/coach made Nally’s addition the natural choice to guide the seven sessions.

“Nally is a tremendous asset to Sussex County. We chose Mike because of his belief in, commitment to, and demonstration of servant leadership. He is a living example of walking the talk,” McGowan said.

“Mike’s ability to share his ‘Be Do and Cause’ principles with the group and guide them in their own discussions with each person around those principles is one of the finest demonstrations I’ve seen of adult learning,” McGowan continued.

The group was unanimous in describing the sessions as transformational.

“We’ve all been to training seminars for one and two days and you come back on fire and then it fizzles out,” said Frank Brady.” The way it was set up- the week to week format-allowed the right stretch of time to be responsible and to be transformational, so we can make a change and be accountable for it – to ourselves and to the group.”

“I didn’t want it to end, said Lindsay Maurer, who, like Brady, works for a residential and commercial builder. “I would do anything for these guys. It was transformational. I would love to see everybody go through this,” Maurer said.

Ideas came to the table from all directions – and were listened to, challenged, encouraged, and fleshed out in real time. Softball ideas where honed for specifics and some of the sessions were intensive, but generous with constructive criticism and the offering of personal lessons as a way to convert ideas into reality.

Patti Grimes, executive director of a non-profit art foundation, found the different backgrounds of the class participants an important ingredient in enriching the group. “We all learned from everyone else’s experiences through this,” Grimes said. “It helps us take that back to work and to our homes and help create new leaders.”

Nally was initially concerned that the long evening sessions, coming at the end of a full work day, would be difficult to sustain.

“I thought it might run out of gas,” Nally offered.” Keeping people engaged for five hours was a worry – it’s tough to keep up the energy. But the reality, the dynamics of the group proved the opposite. The conversation stayed fresh and long enough to start changing things.”

We moved the world to be here,” Grimes said. Everyone agreed quitting at 9 p.m. proved difficult.

Nally and McGowan’s stretch goal intends to create 100 resourceful leaders for the community from a diverse pool of applicants. The only prerequisite is a commitment to Sussex County. The inaugural class will act as mentors and provide additional resources for future sessions.

As the last session came to a close, a class that began as 10 strangers left as a tightly knit unit that did not want to quit. Instead of goodbyes the new Resourceful Leaders were making plans to meet regularly and continue the process of support, partnership, and economic growth.

As a token of their commencement, McGowan and Nally presented each with a potted Bonsai tree accented with a “Be, Do, Cause” touchstone – a reminder of their purpose. McGowan reminded the group that Bonsai trees were beautiful to look at but tricky to grow, requiring a commitment of time and personal attention. If the Bonsai was a fitting symbol, then Maurer’s reaction to it might symbolize the leaders and their chances for success. Maurer took her Bonsai home, examined several websites on how to care for them, and shared the best instructions with the group in an email the next day. It wasn’t her Bonsai she was concerned about – it was everyone’s Bonsai that mattered.

Article and photo: Michele Walfred     Click here for additional photos