A pathway to make a difference - Community Democracy Program expands into Parkersburg

Community Democracy Program expands into Parkersburg
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 11:42 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services has expanded its Community Democracy Program into Parkersburg.

WTAP has more on how this gives locals a way to make a difference.

Sometimes people see an issue in their community or simply just want to make it better but don’t know how to do that. That’s where the Community Democracy Program comes in.

Fair Shake’s Meagan Niebler elaborated, saying, “..., and so that’s really the heart of the Community Democracy Program. How can we support communities to be part of decisions, to really drive the ideas and solutions, so that everybody in Parkersburg ends up being happy and healthy and well.”

Don’t be fooled by Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services’ full name. The Community Democracy Program can tackle a range of issues. It’s not only for environmental efforts.

“So Fair Shake’s role, we’re here to walk alongside residents and so we are able to provide resources, help find funding, provide ideas from other communities, but really it’s the ambassadors, it’s the community members who are the ones who are creating the ideas, creating the solutions, and moving those ideas forward,” Niebler said.

She said people can sign up to be community ambassadors and attend regular meetings.

Coleen Nicoles is a Parkersburg ambassador.

She said, “Every community has a different need so, within a community, we gather together all the participants, whether they’re ambassadors or just visitors to the meetings and we say okay here’s an issue we’re trying to address and give everyone a chance to add input and try to troubleshoot why does this problem exist to begin with and what is the solution to this?”

Some meetings include ambassadors from other areas of the Ohio River Valley.

Niebler said, “And so it will be really amazing to really learn all together, right? What works in Parkersburg and taking that to another town. Lessons from another town and bringing that down to Parkersburg.”

Getting more trees, especially in neighborhoods, is a goal Parkersburg ambassadors have been looking into.

Niebler said, “I think we’ve all been in different parts of Parkersburg and some streets have beautiful, incredible trees that provide shade that provide a community gathering space and other parts of Parkersburg don’t have that same level of trees.”

Nicoles emphasized that the program is a bipartisan effort.

Being a part of the Community Democracy Program has been an empowering experience for her. She said that the power of being in a group helps you make more of an impact.

“When you’re kind of a free agent doing these things on your own you can have an impact but the scope is very narrow. Here’s the question of collective bargaining and the empowerment that comes from group and community and that’s kind of the backbone of what we’re trying to capitalize on here,” she said.

If you want to get involved or have questions about the program, you can call 412-664-5811 or you can email info@fairshake-els.org.