Nonprofit to create best small town experience

By Herald Staff

JASPER — A new Jasper nonprofit aims to create the best small town experience for all.

Heart of Jasper formed through the nationwide Main Street America organization. The group's vision is to create the epicenter of activity for the community by leveraging existing assets, transforming those in need, and instilling new energy through creative programs and collaborative leadership.

This collaborative effort unites the City of Jasper, Jasper Chamber of Commerce, Dubois County Community Foundation, Dubois Strong, Dubois County Tourism, Greater Downtown Jasper Business Association, ROJAC, Jasper Public Library, Jasper Community Arts, and businesses in the Historic District, River Centre and near downtown.

“Jasper has been part of the Main Street program since its inception in Indiana over 30 years ago," Nancy Eckerle, director of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce, said in announcing the new collaboration. "We have always had a strong downtown association and immense pride in the downtown area of Jasper. The establishment of Heart of Jasper will take us to a new level. Forming the various committees will provide volunteer opportunities for community members that will lead to action and involvement from many that want the downtown to be full of vitality for years ahead. This is exciting, and the Jasper Chamber is proud to be part of this new and progressive organization.”

Heart of Jasper determined new community priorities based on a 2018 survey conducted in Jasper by Main Street America. The group will focus their activities and economic development based on these results in three main areas: Arts, Entertainment, and Restaurants; Home Living; and Health and Well-being.

Heart of Jasper has four main committees: Organization, Economic Vitality, Design, and Promotion. Their work will include a commercial inventory database of the Historic District and surrounding area to retain and recruit businesses.

Additionally, workshops are planned for existing and new businesses. Infrastructure and design, façade improvements, and wayfinding signs are goals. Funds will be used to hire a part-time director. Responsibilities and information can be found on Applications and resumes will be accepted until Sept. 30.

The Dubois County Community Foundation is supporting the Heart of Jasper with a $22,500 grant split over three years to help with initial start-up costs for the organization. Additionally, the Bob and Josie Siebert Family Endowment, administered by the Community Foundation, will support the Heart of Jasper with a grant.

“Collaboration and partnership is something the Community Foundation strongly believes in and we see that in this effort,” said Clayton Boyles, executive director of Dubois County Community Foundation. “We are proud to support the Heart of Jasper as they begin building their organization.”

Heart of Jasper invites the community to join them downtown for "Love Your Community Cleanup" on Monday, Aug. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. More information can be found on the Heart of Jasper Facebook page.

Mayor Dean Vonderheide, an advisor for the nonprofit, adds: “I am excited about the new ‘Heart of Jasper’ organization taking shape and launching within the community. The individuals volunteering their time and talent as leaders of this organization are community minded and aware of the challenges our downtown faces. They will drive much needed positive change as our downtown evolves.”

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