Friends of Midtown needs your help to keep going

I wanted to take a moment today to thank all of you for your continued support as participants in Friends of Midtown’s several events this year. You probably didn’t make them all, so I’ll start off with a brief rundown. We did a lot, so it’s a bit lengthy. If you don’t need a reminder of what good Friends of Midtown does, please skip to the end and read about what we need and how you can help us going forward.

2014 Accomplishments (So Far)
In February, we enjoyed a winter social and annual meeting at Stage on Herr. In March, we organized a baseball-themed spring social at the Midtown Cinema. About fifty attended each. In April, we planted a few dozen barrels of flowers throughout Midtown. May brought both participation in the Great American Cleanup of Central PA and the Midtown May Market, a combination community yard sale and fundraiser waffle breakfast. Several dozen individuals filled up with waffles and even more found great deals from fellow neighbors. In June, we organized a fundraiser for the Broad Street Market and you came out in droves for a sampling of the best the Market had to offer, raising about $1300 for the Market. July contained a fun, but sparsely-attended night with the Harrisburg Senators.

And then there was August. Just last week, we had a blast mingling with neighbors in a free event in participation with National Night Out. Although it was also intended to be a celebration of FOM’s tenth anniversary, we were all so caught up in the entertainment that we didn’t even make an announcement. We just enjoyed the evening with you, including the dunk tank, the bounce house, the face painting, and the music of Havana Blue. No one counted attendees, but we gave away nearly 250 hot dogs. That seems like a good proxy.

What’s to Come
There’s more to come this year, too. From September 5-7, the East Shore YMCA is hosting us for a Weekend at the Y. October brings a trick-or-treat-night haunted house at the Historic Harrisburg Resource Center with an adult social the following evening. In November, I hope we can have a presence on Small Business Saturday, November 29, by selling Midtown-centric coupon books as a fundraiser. December 14 will see the return of Santa Claus to the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum.

What We’re Always Doing
And there are those things we do every month. Local Lunches have encouraged hundreds,  perhaps thousands of dollars of economic stimulation at Midtown eateries. We’ve continued to sponsor 3rd in the Burg, and with the generosity of our business members, the LGBT Center of Central PA, the Midtown Scholar, the Historic Harrisburg Association, st@rtup, the Midtown Cinema, and the Broad Street Market, we’ve been able to have a physical presence as well. Our Community Foot Patrol tries to walk the streets weekly to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. The Beautification Committee organizes monthly #2MinTues community cleanups. And three committees–Beautification, Events, and Safety–organize monthly meetings to hear ideas from neighbors about what they want to do to improve Midtown and how we can do it. We communicate all of these activities with monthly eNewsletters and quarterly paper newsletters hand-delivered throughout Midtown.

An Amazing Board of Directors
That’s a lot of stuff and would not have been possible without an amazing Board of Directors, so I’d like to take a moment to thank each of them.

Before I became FOM president, Don Barnett served three years at the helm. And he did great. He’s so committed to Midtown that he stayed on as treasurer after stepping down as president. He later filled in as vice president. With our former Citizen Safety Chair Ryan Stark leaving to start a family (congratulations to him and Sarah on last week’s birth of Oliver, the youngest FOM member), Don also took up the job of acting safety chair to assure that the foot patrol would continue uninterrupted. But that “acting” job has been all year and we’ve yet to find anyone to step up permanently. He’s been on the Board longer than anyone else and could probably use a break.

Eileen Carson has done a great job in her third year as chair of the Beautification Committee. She’s upped the ante by adding more, but smaller cleanups to the agenda, but continuing to organize large events. We’ve expanded the planted barrels project under her watch and she’s always ready to help with other, non-beautification initiatives.

Matt Caylor is also in his third year as business chair, most recently coordinating Local Lunches and becoming our lemonade master. He also stocks the Little Free Libraries and helps with and has been helpful with graphic designing because I just don’t have the skills and we don’t have a communications chair. As with everyone else on the Board, Matt also volunteers at our myriad events.

Georgia Latsha is our former membership chair, but had to give up those duties due to work responsibilities. She agreed, however, to stay on the Board to help at most of our events, and her assistance has been integral to their success.

Jamie Lemon is closing in on two years as events chair. With her help, FOM has organized bigger, better, and more frequent events than I’ve ever known us to do. Jamie, like Matt, is also helpful taking on some communications duties. But with a new job taking up additional time, Jamie won’t be able to continue with us after the expiration of her term in December.

Sara Love has stepped up at the beginning of the year to fill Georgia’s role as membership chair and has helped make sure you receive all of your membership materials and are reminded of your membership expirations. She’s also coordinated our presence at 3rd in the Burg events and finds time to help at special events.

Ashleigh Pollart is closing her first year as secretary and has found time to help at FOM events despite having, by my account, no free time between her several long-hour jobs. And yet she never appears to be tired.

Without these seven individuals, Friends of Midtown’s initiatives wouldn’t be possible. For that, I am grateful because I’m always asking more of them, sometimes too much for too few to accomplish. The success of Friends of Midtown is built on two contributions from our supporters: money and time. Many of you have generously stepped up to join Friends of Midtown and we appreciate your membership dues and donations and more are certainly welcome to join.

What We Need from You
What we still need, however, is your time. Our membership numbers are up, as is our bank account. Plenty have participanted in our events, but very few assist in the way of brainstorming, planning, and implementing them. Don’t misunderstand me: these events could not have been successful without all of the attendees. But they can’t continue without volunteers. Almost all of this work has fallen on the backs of FOM’s Board of Directors or their cajoled friends and family. These individuals have done a great job all year. But quite frankly, we’re all tired. We need fresh ideas, fresh blood. Without this, eventually we’ll all burn out and the Friends of Midtown you’ve grown to love will be unable to organize these events.

Here’s the lowdown: foot patrol participation has waned as the year has progressed, reducing frequency and size of the patrols. Committee meeting attendance has been even worse, sometimes being only the chair in attendance and almost never a non-Board member. The Business Committee doesn’t even meet because the few attempts have been so poorly received. As I stated, almost all of our volunteers come directly from the Board or their significant others. It’s just not sustainable.

So we need your help.

How You Can Help
Please find time to participate in a committee meeting. They aren’t stodgy, formal teeth-pullers. They’re fun, interactive, and informative. What keeps you from participating? It couldn’t be lack of interest, because you seem to enjoy the end product. Are the times, locations, or frequency of meetings inconvenient? I know it couldn’t just be investment of time. Seriously, it’s only an hour a month. We’re all busy, but make time for those things that matter to us. What matters to me is improving Midtown. I hope you too can find the time to lend a hand.

We’ve already scheduled the August and September meetings. Jamie will send an e-mail tomorrow morning to those who expressed interest in events. Just a head’s up: the events meeting will be at 6:00 p.m. at Stage on Herr and we’ll be planning that haunted house I mentioned. Don will send an e-mail on August 25 for a 6:15 safety meeting, also at Stage on Herr. In addition to reviving the Foot Patrol, Don wants to organize a Safety Fair. Then we do it all again in September, starting with Eileen’s September 3 #2MinTues cleanup and beautification meeting starting at 3rd and Verbeke streets.

But we can change it up in October because those meetings haven’t been scheduled yet. It’s a great time to get involved because we start setting broad agendas for 2015 in the last quarter of this year. Are the meetings too late? Too early? Wrong day of the week? Is Stage on Herr not conducive to events and safety meetings? Do you not like combining #2MinTues cleanups with beautification meetings? E-mail me with your feedback about what I can do to get you involved (or reinvolved).

And then we need a few individuals to step up even more and join our Board of directors. Don needs relief in a permanent Citizen Safety Chair. Jamie needs replacement with an individual or two to lead the Events Committee going forward. Eileen and Matt could use some help with Beautification and Business cochairs. And I could use some help with aCommunications chair, someone who can design signs and posters and maintain our Web site. The minimal contribution here is one two-hour meeting per month, but you’re certainly welcome to volunteer with other initiatives. Most Board members likely dedicate around 5 hours per month. Again, let me know if you want to help lead Midtown forward.

Summer is halfway over. Vacations are ending. Kids are returning to school. You don’t need to wait until a new year to resolve to get more involved in your community. Please consider what you love about Friends of Midtown and what you’re willing to do to sustain it.

Thank you for your continued support.

Shawn Westhafer
Friends of Midtown