11140398_1181530415205688_8754693916742779178_nBack in 1995, two different groups of Delaware County, Indiana, community leaders–a group of educators and a group of people involved in healthcare, were both asking the same question: What would happen if we could find a way to harness the passion, perspective and energy of grassroots citizens to create positive community change? The groups merged, began to develop a shared vision and to set in motion the foundation for building a healthier community initiative. In the fall of 1995, the National Civic League (NCL) was hired to help roll out this effort.

After working with the NCL developing a strategy for beginning as well as a comprehensive list of a diverse group of potential stakeholders to invite, the group was ready to begin. Walter Berry and Molly Flodder were named volunteer co-chairs of the planning process. On February 29, 1996, 89 individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives throughout Delaware County came together with a common desire–to make our community a better place to live, work, play and learn.

For nearly a year, more than 70 individuals joined as a team–TEAMwork for Quality Living–to mold a vision and forge a plan to build a healthier community. The result was the development of five Key Performance Areas and 11 initiatives that would take the citizens of Delaware County toward its vision to become the best possible community. The key focus areas were: Citizenship, Community Services, Education, Family Development and RACISM (Reaching Across Cultures and Investing in a Successful Muncie and Delaware County).

In the Spring of 1997, just months after the plan was completed, a Board of Directors was appointed and an administrative assistant was hired to support the volunteer Key Performance Area groups. In late 1997, Molly Flodder was named the organization’s first Executive Director.

Early events coordinated by TEAMwork were:

  • TEAM Showcase, a Delaware County funfest, showcased the non-profit organizations in the community.
  • A Fatherhood Conference and other ongoing initiatives helped fathers with parenting skills.
  • The Building Bright Beginnings initiative that evolved through several different service delivery models, using trained volunteers to help teach new parents about the importance of effective stimulation of an infant and toddler to improve brain development.
  • Walking events and health fairs were coordinated by TEAMwork’s Living Healthy initiative for more than 14 years. In addition, they posted “Park in the Back 40” signs with calculated steps from the sign to the door of the business. Those signs still are hanging today.
  • The community’s first comprehensive race relations attitudinal study was conducted by the Social Science Research Center in 2000. Findings were used to continue the race relations work, including the commissioning of a book Reconciling the Past: A Brief History of Race Relations in Muncie 1827-2004, published in 2004.

In 2000, the Board participated in a strategic planning process that helped revise the TEAMwork for Quality Living mission and to streamline TEAMwork’s efforts into three focus areas: community pride, education and individual health and well-being.

A turning point:

Working with “You and Year 2000” Delaware County’s Millennium committee, TEAMwork put together a comprehensive community committee that led the effort in March 2001 to apply for the All America City Award. In the Spring of 2001, with only 45 days to plan, TEAMwork raised the funding to take a delegation of 69 diverse citizens to Atlanta, Georgia, to participate in the finals. While Muncie was not selected as one of the ten winners that year, the effort brought together a diverse group of people whose working relationships were strengthened and whose passion for the community was enhanced.

TEAMwork members were troubled by the fact that the delegation to Atlanta’s All America City competition couldn’t answer a judges’ question about what the Muncie community was doing collectively to address a high incidence of poverty.  Within three years, TEAMwork and the then-Center Township Trustee Dick Shirey banded together to begin a focus on addressing poverty.

In 2005, serious looking at the issue culminated in putting together a diverse team to focus on poverty awareness.  A Poverty Summit was held in the spring of 2005 and, by 2006, the group was introducing a model to help people get out of poverty, one person, one family at a time.

Linkage to Move the Mountain Leadership Center (now Circles® USA) helped introduce the Circles model that has since become the core of the local anti-poverty work.  As the need became more apparent, TEAMwork’s central focus has become the effort to empower individuals to build the resources needed to get out of poverty.