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A united purpose

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By Nathan L. McBroom

A coalition of community leaders and local elected officials gathered together last week to cast a vision of how they would like to see Shelby County improve in the future.

The meeting, which was organized by Metro United Way, brought together bank presidents, school teachers, government officials, representatives from several local non-profit agencies and one local news reporter.

Angie Ratliff, community coordinator for Metro United Way, said the goal of the meeting was to help community members identify the issues they are really passion about - both positively and negatively.

Some of the issues that were raised were public transportation, dental treatment for those without insurance, early childhood issue/kindergarten readiness, youth issues, and programs for Hispanics.

Ratliff is currently analyzing, processing and organizing all of the information gathered last week. The information will be used during an upcoming planning session of Metro United Way's local partnership team.

The partnership team will identify some key issues that they would like to address in the coming year.

After that, the United Way will host another community conversation in which they will talk about how to strategically take on these goals.

"We want to find out what issues can we make a difference in and how can we address those issues," she said.

The next community session is scheduled for May.

Ratliff said she has seen brainstorming sessions such as this have big results.

In Oldham County back, community members came together and identified two priority areas in 2004. Residents there identified dental care and transportation as areas that could see improvement.

Ratliff said as ideas sparked more ideas, many members of the group were moved to make sure that the issues were addressed and a solution found. From that session, a grassroots movement was sparked that set out to address both dental care for children and public transportation.

A couple that sat in the conversation started a public transportation company that offers local non-emergency medical transport.

Recently an organization is also starting in Oldham County to offer dental care to children.

Ratliff said how much Metro United Way can do in the community is based on the how much people are involved.

Because the organization's budget is based on the how much is given during their campaign, they do not know how funding they will be able to dispense year to year, she said.

Metro United Way, a non-profit organization based in Louisville, helps support more than 90 health and human service agencies in Bullitt, Jefferson, Oldham, and Shelby Counties in Kentucky.

Locally the Dorman Center, the Multi-purpose Center and Operation Care and seven other agencies are funded locally through the organization.