WACF unveils community strategies
by Jack McNeely
Mar 15, 2014 | 1408 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation, addresses those in attendance at Friday’s meeting. – Photo by: Jack McNeely.
Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation, addresses those in attendance at Friday’s meeting. – Photo by: Jack McNeely.
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Armed with data retrieved from hundreds of individual interviews with nearly 150 community stakeholders over the last several months, the Walker Area Community Foundation on Friday unveiled a comprehensive strategic plan for a unified Walker County.

“I am excited,” Paul Kennedy, WACF president, told more than 50 key decision-makers gathered at the Community Health System Activities Center in Jasper. “We have all the components in this room to make Walker County a better place.”

The Foundation enlisted the professional services of Birmingham-based Clarus Consulting Group last year to initiate and implement a strategic planning process that engaged key community, business, education and civic leaders.

Two sessions were held Friday to unveil the six-legged strategic plan, which includes:

•Healthy Lifestyles and Recreation. The goal is to improve health outcome trends for Walker County over the next three to five years. Walker County is currently ranked 66th out of Alabama’s 67 counties in overall health.

•Education. The goal is to promote quality of life and employment opportunities in Walker County through building a strong education system by focusing on pre-K and career readiness.

•Creating Alignment and a Common Vision. The goal is to provide a framework of support to facilitate the building of strong, unified leadership and development of a countywide common vision.

•Supporting Nonprofits through Grants & Capacity-Building. The goal is to support nonprofits in Walker County through Foundation grants and capacity-building initiatives.

•Endowment and Donor Relations. The goal is to grow the Foundation endowment through strategic donor relations initiatives and infrastructure.

•Board and Staff Capacity and Development. The goal is to develop the capacity and effectiveness of the board and staff to enable Foundation growth and efficiency.

A common theme Friday among the stakeholders was that the unified strategic plan presents an extraordinary opportunity for Walker County.

State Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper) attended the first session Friday and encouraged other significant role players to “Learn. Find your place. And, have the right attitude.”

Eddie Jackson, a longtime attorney and WACF board director, added, “We have the talent pool in this community to accomplish anything we put our minds to.”

The Walker Area Community Foundation was organized in 1995 with a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Walker Regional Medical Center. Its mission is to serve as a nonprofit dedicated to the nurture and advancement of the community through forming and preserving charitable capital and using the proceeds of that capital to better the community as a whole.

By 2010, the Foundation endowment had grown to nearly $12 million. But the 2011 tornadoes helped spawn significant endowment growth and added responsibility. Today, the endowment totals more than $25 million, noted Jackson.

“It is our responsibility to spend these funds responsibly,” he added. “Our ultimate goal is for the stakeholders in this room to take control of this strategic program.”

According to Kennedy, the Foundation will invest nearly $170,000 on the yearlong strategic planning process.

If the atmosphere of teamwork Friday is any indication, Walker County’s return on the Foundation’s investment may be significant.

Brent McCarver, a collections officer at First Bank of Jasper, member of the local chamber board and past United Way fundraising chair, summed it up best. “Our lack of growth over the years was not due to a lack of resources; it was due to the lack of unification. This is tremendous.”

Haig Wright, a partner at Byars & Associates and member of the Foundation board, said after the presentation, “I have lived here all my life. I have never seen all these leaders in one room with the same vision. It’s time to move forward.”