More than 25,000 households are spread across Boone County’s 423 square miles. In the past 10 years, the population has grown by nearly 10,000 residents to more than 65,000.
Re-imagining and building ways to connect the growing population is high on the priority list for the Community Foundation of Boone County (CFBC) following a 2019 survey. A $150,000 leadership grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc, is helping make that vision a reality using two approaches: technology and art.
The technology approach is centered around developing a mobile app that will be known as Connect Boone County. The app provides three levels of reach, including resident volunteer opportunities at county nonprofits, a community calendar, and a donation portal to direct funds to nonprofits.
Connect Boone County is in production and is expected to roll out by the end of the year, according to Jodi Gietl, CFBC president and CEO. A part-time community collaboration coordinator will act as a liaison between the nonprofits and app developer. A version will be available for desktop computer use as well.
Plans call for nonprofits to download volunteer opportunities to the app weekly. Residents can then search for opportunities by type of interest or time availability. Nonprofits will update the database constantly with their needs. Gietl envisions volunteer experiences such as seniors reading to students in literacy programs or people learning food bank drop-off location times and acceptable items.
“Since I joined (CFBC) in 2019, I’ve heard people want to be involved in nonprofits and volunteer and neither knows how to find each other,” Gietl says. “People desire to be involved. They yearn and their hearts are filled by being connected, and we want to help them be connected.”
Building on the broad reach that the Connect Boone County app will bring, the second feature will be a community calendar that will serve as a central hub for countywide events. Information will be drawn from the Zionsville and Boone County chambers of commerce, the Boone County Economic Development Corporation and the Boone County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The third app feature is one built from lessons learned during the pandemic to make it easier to find out how to get help and offer donations, Gietl says.
“First will be a place to make monetary donations directly to nonprofits, but then other needs will be listed out there. We’re formalizing what we learned during COVID-19 and centrally housing it (services) in one location.”
Another grant CFBC applied for but did not receive was funding to fully connect the Big 4 Trail from southeast of the county in Zionsville through Whitestown and centrally located Lebanon and ending in the county’s northwest corner at Thorntown. Gietl says state funding will cover those incomplete sections for each town separately. She is hopeful fiberoptics would be included during trail construction to help remote areas receive much-needed technology access.
As part of the $150,000 leadership grant it did receive to fund the mobile app, the foundation built-in a community mural aspect, which several towns and cities already have in place. The theme of connection will be captured through the element of art murals on downtown buildings to build identity and sharing the unique town histories in Jamestown and Advance.
She set her eyes to direct dollars to three towns, two of which are not on the trail — Jamestown and Advance were chosen because of their locations in the southwest portion of Boone County, and Thorntown in the northwest quadrant.
“We want to pay homage to their towns’ individualities. Herman Wells was born in Jamestown and played a big part in supporting Indiana University and benefiting the state as a whole. Agriculture is also huge. There is a rich history to draw on,” Gietl says.
She says the 30-feet-by-30-feet mural designs are still in the works. Starting in Jamestown this summer, the muralist will paint or draw in the images and the town can fill in paint-by-number style. Advance will be next this year to receive a mural followed by Thorntown in 2022.
“(Through the murals), we’re trying to spur excitement to visit,” Gietl says. “People can have an Instagram-able moment by the mural, eat at a local restaurant and shop and see what a beautiful piece of Boone County our western towns are.”
Finalization of each mural will feature a community block party to bring local awareness to the projects and towns that make Boone County a unique community in central Indiana.
For more information about the CFBC, visit www.communityfoundationbc.org.