Written by Jenna Anderson, Noble Thrive by 5 Early Childhood Coalition Coordinator
I may not be native to Noble County, but I have made it my home for the last 22 years. During that time, I didn’t simply sit back and let the world happen around me. I got involved, and something became clear very quickly. Noble County is the definition of the word collaboration. Looking back, I know I saw this when I was a reporter for The News Sun. Moving to the Kendallville Public Library, I noticed that we partnered with many organizations throughout the community to create important programs and services. But it wasn’t until about 2017 when I recognized it for what it truly was.
I was donating my time and talents to the United Way of Noble County to create a video that would run at their first Power of the Purse event. I was asked to attend an Interagency Meeting to record the communication and collaboration that goes on among social service agencies. It’s not overstating to tell you that I was blown away by this monthly gathering. Around 30 agencies serving Noble County were represented. Some were based in Noble County and some were headquartered elsewhere in the region but serve Noble County residents. All were committed to collaboration that benefits those living and working in our little slice of Indiana. They shared the work they were doing. They shared grant opportunities that they had found, even though another agency applying for the same funds might prevent their own organization from receiving the grant. I heard from an agency that serves multiple counties that they were awed by the collaboration and cooperation in Noble County, because they do not find it within the other counties they serve. I saw the groups getting together right after the main meeting to talk about how they can join forces. That’s when I realized what I had known all along about Noble County…we are the definition of collaboration.
It’s the reason I’m so involved in my community. Heck, it’s the reason why I took the job as Noble Thrive by 5’s Early Childhood Coalition Coordinator. No one person, organization, or even a small group of agencies is going to solve the complex challenges surrounding child care and early learning. It’s going to take ALL OF US.
If I hadn’t witnessed the power of teamwork within Noble County, I would have turned down the position back when it was offered to me in September 2021. But because I know our organizations and individuals are committed to working together and not duplicating services; because I have seen the powerful things that can be built by many having a common goal (such as the Community Learning Center); because I have been part of groups that literally change the landscape of the community for common good (Noble Trails); I knew that Noble Thrive by 5 would have all it needed to increase the capacity, quality, and affordability of child care and early learning experiences in Noble County. It has the power of collaboration behind it.
Noble Thrive by 5 wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without three main organizations seeing its value and working together. The Community Foundation of Noble County, Noble County Economic Development Corporation, and United Way of Noble County (now Crossroads United Way) saw how the lack of child care and early learning opportunities affect so many in our community. It affects, families, businesses, the economy…it’s incredible how much it touches. Because of that, those three organizations brought other stakeholders into the collaboration. Brightpoint, Parkview, the YMCA, educators, employers, community leaders, child care providers, social service organizations, and more. Since joining the team, I have been working closely with New Community Initiatives based in Ligonier, which is made up of a large number of community leaders, the Community Learning Center’s Leadership Team of dedicated programmers and supported organizations, The ARC Noble County Foundations, which reached out to offer assistance with staffing, with the Town of Albion and its manager on the potential for a new child care center. We’re working beyond the borders of Noble County to create a Regional Early Childhood Coalition which will enable further collaboration throughout our 11 counties in Northeast Indiana. We are meeting with coalitions and child care providers across the state to work together to solve the challenges all of our communities face.
I can’t possibly list all the partnerships surrounding just this one project. But my point is this: Noble County is collaboration. Every day, those of us who live and work here team up to make our community a better place. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.