Several regional community leaders have announced the public launch of a new non-profit community development organization, called One Shawnee, to serve the needs of the Ohio River Valley and Shawnee National Forest regions of southernmost Illinois – the Shawnee Region.
One Shawnee Board President Patrick Windhorst explained the need to take action, saying, “In almost every measurable category related to economic hardship, the poorest counties in Illinois largely reside in the Shawnee region. The percentage of those living in poverty, health outcomes, drug abuse, population decline, and the number of home vacancies tell the story. Our region is in crisis and it’s time to act like it.”
As a state representative, Windhorst understands that Illinois is not an attractive place right now for people and businesses to invest, but answers that saying, “while it’s easy to use the state’s failures as a scapegoat for our situation, that doesn’t help us create solutions for a better future. The days of waiting around for the government to come rescue us are over.”
The purpose of One Shawnee will not be to supplant any current organizations or institutions, but instead function as a “community quarterback” whereby they facilitate the creation of a shared vision and strategic plan for the region with buy-in from all stakeholders One Shawnee’s mission statement is as follows:
One Shawnee will generate planned action that culturally and economically rebuilds the Ohio River and Shawnee National Forest regions of southernmost Illinois on a shared vision of the future using a focused alliance of community groups, leaders, resource partners, and stakeholders.
The new organization is committed to following a community development process that involves a bottom-up approach where ideas and planned action are the fruit of public input and collaboration. “We believe strongly that all of us – from elected officials and civic leaders to the clerk at the local convenience store – must have a say in the shared vision of the future we all get behind. People support what they help create,” explained Windhorst, adding, “co-ownership of a positive vision means that we all have a say in how we revitalize the region and we all have a part to play in the actual work.”
With the launch and a bottom-up approach in mind, One Shawnee is asking for immediate involvement from the public by participating in an online Community Survey. The survey can be found at OneShawnee.com and will help the group better understand the attitudes and opinions of Shawnee Region residents as they begin their work. One Shawnee has also scheduled a series of focus groups to take place in every county of the region over the next few months as well as potential online town halls.
The One Shawnee Board of Directors is an assembled group of regional leaders from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations representative of public and private institutions throughout the Shawnee Region:
Patrick Windhorst, President
State Representative, 118th District
Sherrie Crabb, Vice President – CEO, Family Counseling Center, Inc.
Martin Rowe, Treasurer – President/CEO, First Eldorado Bancshares, Inc.
Beth Montfort, Secretary – Retired Teacher
Dale Fowler, Member – State Senator, 59th District
Dr. Deborah Barnett, Member – Associate Director of the SIU Research Park and Director of Business Incubator Programs, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Jody Johnson, Member – Unit 27 County Extension Director, University of Illinois Extension
Kristy Stephenson, Member – Assistant State’s Attorney, Massac County
Nicholas Mott, Member – Legislative Aide, Office of State Representative Patrick Windhorst
Trish Steckenrider, Member – Executive Director, Metropolis Convention & Visitors Bureau
Joe Hackler, Ex-Officio Member – Communications Director, Illinois Republican Party
Rhonda Belford, Member – President, Ohio River Scenic Byway, Inc. NFP
Tony Cox, Member – County Coroner, Gallatin County
Angie Hampton, Member – CEO, Egyptian Health Department
Deborah Johnson, Member – Retired, Higher Education Administration
Josh Stafford, Member – Superintendent, Vienna High School
Larry Mizell, Member – Retired, Former Warden & Chief Deputy Director IDOC
Dr. Gregory Mason, Member – Dean of Workforce Innovation, Adult Basic & Continuing Education, Shawnee Community College
Andy Sisulak, Member – District Aide, Office of Illinois State Senator Dale Fowler