Only Steps Forward, Never Back, with Ferrum Forward

Committee gathers for April meeting
Jenny West, Ferrum Forward Chair, speaks during the April meeting.
Jenny West, Ferrum Forward Chair, speaks during the April meeting.
Grace Weaver

With the rain continuing to settle across the mountainous terrain of Ferrum College in the background, members of Ferrum Forward gathered once more in the lobby of the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum on April 9.

Jennie West, chair, welcomed the group, and proceeded with the most fundamental orders of business, accounting for the treasurer’s report, summarizing the March minutes, and noting the need for approval to the newest addition of the by-laws: to designate July 1-June 30 as the fiscal year for financial reporting. 

March, the most previous meeting of the community-centered group, ended on a note of only positivity and a sense of accomplishment, according to West as she reviewed the recent minutes report, which incorporated an amiable amount of on-campus and community events, proposed future endeavors, as well as amendments to by-laws, and the announcement of the group’s most recent and prideful success–the future unveiling of the Ferrum Historical Marker.

The April meeting continued the trend.

Details of the upcoming events for the month followed the meeting’s introduction. The primary emphasis was placed upon the Ferrum Historical Marker Unveiling Ceremony in front of St. James Church on Sat. April 13 at 3:30 pm. There will be a reception in addition to the unveiling to further celebrate the group’s efforts.

College-based events were announced next, including the upcoming theatre production of Joeseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat taking stage tonight through April 14, an Earth Day Celebration on April 22, the grand re-opening of the Farmer’s/Crafter’s Market on April 18, and an update on Friends of Ferrum Park.

Bob Pohlad, vice president, also noted an upcoming fundraiser at the Phoebe Needles Center for the children’s program, and Tina Hanlon, English Professor and Community Relations Chair, informed the group of a current library-like system taking place within the community.

Ferrum Forward is in deliberation with the county’s Board of Supervisors to purchase the property of the park, and representatives of the group are currently negotiating a price for the land in the highest hopes for the future of the Village’s outdoor recreational facilities, according to Rebecca Saunders, committee chairperson of membership and fundraising.

A collection of school supplies by a college club for Kid’s Soar at the Earth Day Celebration was also noted, as well as the need for volunteers for the Ferrum Forward tent throughout the evening of the event.

The committee also requested volunteers for the theatre production and the farmer’s market.

With Ferrum soon to bustle with energy, the group mimicked such a pace, as the majority of the meeting was dedicated to taking action. At 6:15 p.m., the committee divided into breakout groups to discuss and organize a community response team and to bring forward new ideas for community engagement projects.

Ferrum Forward attendees divide into two groups to divide and conquer two important orders of business within the meeting. (Grace Weaver)

The community response team is a current effort of the group to develop an emergency response system on a civilian level. Ideally, there will be three response teams–emergency, urgent, and social–headed by members of Ferrum Forward that organize community outreach and assistance to locals of the village on a more minor scale.

The proposal lies within a helping-hands concept, in which neighbors can help neighbors with a broad variety of common needs, such as removing a tree from a driveway, rides to medical appointments for those who lack the personal resources, or assistance in cutting firewood in the event of impending weather forecasts.

A series of community projects were offered within the breakout groups as well, suggesting future endeavors within the Village. One goal of the group is to further connect the community with the college campus, as well as create a more meaningful environment for the locals.

Suggestions intersecting with a college-community connection included a collaborative studio space for creative expression between locals, students, and artists; an increase of college-based events; and an emphasis on the community-accessible fitness center at the college adjacent to the walking trails that line the campus.

Members of Ferrum Forward also noted the pressing need for sidewalks throughout the town to ensure the safety of locals, as well as emergency sirens to alert the community of impending natural disasters and other threatening weather conditions.

Beautification of the Village was concern, too, including the replacement of the tattered flag hovering above the local post office, a sign advertising the construction that leaves Ferrum Elementary School in its current state, addressing the current appearance of the Ferrum Mercantile, and a prioritization of trash removal throughout the county.

Ferrum Forward hopes to gain additional environmental grants through Equip as well to extend the potential of the Friends of Ferrum Park.

At 7:30 p.m., the meeting adjourned, moving forward with their mission statement: to enhance the quality of life and sense of community throughout the Village of Ferrum. 

For more information regarding the direction of Ferrum Forward and current events, the group’s Facebook page is open for any and all members of the community, as well as their website online.

Inquiries regarding volunteering may be addressed via email through Hanlon.

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