More than 80 people attend nonprofit forum

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BETHEL — More than 80 people representing some 50 nonprofit organizations that serve the Bethel area attended the Bethel Area Nonprofit Collaborative Forum held on April 9.

Through a process known as Open Space Technology, the participants created and managed their own agendas, held 21 break-out groups and looked ahead to exploring ways to collaborate around programming, fund development and networking. Five students from Telstar, representing the Greenhouse of Telstar Farms and student leadership, also attended.

Among the break-out sessions initiated by participants were the following: healthy lifestyles and wellness promotion; collaborative community mapping; local foods/sustainable agriculture and energy; making regional history alive; collaboration of adults with schools to bring more dramatic experiences with a literary emphasis; how to support youth in preparing to participate in a sustainable green economy; trails, pathways and sidewalks – places to walk for a healthy Bethel; effective ways to communicate; community music-making; and raising funds collaboratively.

The entire list and recommendations have been posted on the Bethel Area Nonprofit Collaborative “wiki,” a technology-supported tool introduced at the forum to enhance networking and communications. Jackie Cressy, who is managing the wiki, is available to assist nonprofit organizations in the area who wish to join. Call 824-0508.

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Many groups planned for follow-up meetings to pursue ideas and recommendations. The group that discussed collaboration to provide more educational opportunities for youth in partnership with nonprofits has scheduled a meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, at Crescent Park School, and plans are underway to hold a collaborative fundraising workshop in mid-May.

The forum was the end result of over a year’s planning by the Bethel Area Nonprofit Collaborative Task Force, which was formed in the fall of 2008 by the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce. The purpose was to foster collaborative action and opportunities among nonprofit organizations in the Greater Bethel Region.

As a result of a grant proposal written by Robin Zinchuk and Allen Cressy, the Betterment Fund awarded $24,000 to support the effort through the consulting services of the Institute for Civic Leadership in Portland.

Steering Committee members included Steve Wight and Jim Mitchell, Mahoosuc Land Trust; Jim List, Bethel Area Trails Committee; Julie Hart, Mahoosuc Kids Association; Aranka Matolcsy, Mahoosuc Arts Council; Carol Emery, River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition; Nancy Davis and Jim Dock, Bethel Historical Society; Jackie Cressy and Rosabelle Tifft, Western Mountains Senior College; Susan Jennings, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond; Charles Raymond, James Piccirillo and Savannah Belisle, Telstar High School; and Robin Zinchuk, Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.

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