What makes a community? Obviously, the people play a large role in making a community thrive, but so do the activities that are available to the residents in their neighborhoods and local public spaces.
These opportunities provide an experience and quality of life that not only benefit our current residents but are also appealing to those who are looking at our community as a possible future home.
One organization that is focused on creating an increased sense of community in Council Bluffs is The 712 Initiative. Jeff Snow, their new Director of Programming and Events, is excited to do just that.
“Our priority is to increase the quality of life and community experience for the Council Bluffs residents,” stated Snow. “That being said, it is important to understand the impact our events and programs can have on recruiting future employees and new businesses to our community.”
Snow is tasked with taking over and expanding previously existing events and programs that were absorbed by The 712 Initiative from their parent organizations Live Well Council Bluffs and Bluffs Downtown.
These familiar events include the Shamrock Shuffle 5k, Bike the Night, and Farmers Market Council Bluffs, which were started by Bluffs Downtown, as well as the Earth Day Shoe Drive, Clean Sweep, CreekTop Gardens, and Adopt-A-Street programs which were all previously led by Live Well Council Bluffs.
“Bringing all of these events and programs under one roof will help maximize the potential for growth and ensure that the events are sustainable as we move forward.”
Partnerships with other community organizations are essential for the growth and maintenance of these pre-existing events. These partnerships are also a vital part of the process when developing new activities for the community. For example; The 712 Initiative has partnered with CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs at CreekTop Gardens.
“CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs has been strong supporter of Live Well Council Bluffs since its inception,” said Kristen Blum, Division Director at CHI Health Mercy Hospital.
“As a nonprofit community hospital, we routinely assess health needs of the community at large and identify opportunities to move that mark. Live Well Council Bluffs was a key partner in making that happen, and we are excited for the expanded scope of The 712 Initiative and the upcoming opportunities for partnership.”
CHI Health has made it possible for those that want a garden plot, but can’t afford one, to be able to rent a plot for the summer through their sponsorship program. The partnership with CHI Health has also been the backbone for the garden programming, providing patrons with workshops held right at the community garden.
Another event that now falls under The 712 Initiative umbrella is Celebrate CB. “Having Celebrate CB, the city’s oldest and largest event designed for our citizens, become a program of The 712 Initiative just made sense,” said Carol Horner, Celebrate CB Co-Chair.
“Celebrate CB contributes to the mission of The 712 Initiative to activate and engage people in our downtown and The 712 Initiative gives consistent structure and support to such a significant event predominantly run by volunteers.”
The events don’t stop there though. Snow and The 712 Initiative are working hard to create even more great events in the Council Bluffs community. “My goal is to create events that give young professionals and growing families the quality of life and experiences that my family and I want to enjoy in our own community.”
Coming up in October, The 712 Initiative has partnered with the Pottawattamie County Trails Association to have a family-friendly bike ride event. The event will focus on bicycle safety awareness for kids and include multiple routes, with a shorter route for children. A portion of the proceeds will go directly to the Pottawattamie County Trails Association to aid in the continued development of the local trail system.
Another event in the works for the organization is a blues and barbeque event in late spring. That event is still in the early planning stages, but based off of community interest and the possible expansion or partnership with a current Barbecue in the Bluffs event, The 712 Initiative thinks it will be a hit.
Before starting at The 712 Initiative in April, Snow worked for the athletic department at Iowa Western Community College for eight years. “Through that work I gained the understanding of how events, specifically the layering of events, are able to create an environment and an experience.”
“I am grateful for my experience at Iowa Western. It taught me how to engage in the community and develop partnerships to create and manage successful events.”
Sheryl Garst, CEO of The 712 Initiative, explained, “A key piece to building the community is creating events and programming to make Council Bluffs an interesting and enjoyable place to live. We want to make Council Bluffs a destination for people to live, work and play.”