Feature Article - January 2007
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Find out what people want and keep everyone happy

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Don't stop there

By now you should feel pretty proud of yourself, as you've developed and implemented a master plan-a process that likely has taken six months to a year. But don't forget, for real, lasting success, evaluation needs to be a cyclical process. Your community changes over time, so keep up with it to stay one step ahead of your patrons' needs.

The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, in particular, has mastered this, as each of its facilities has a volunteer advisory board to manage programming and activities, as well as make suggestions about the facility. The advisory boards, known collectively as the Associated Recreation Council (or ARC) even have their own budget and staff.

Another successful approach is the Latino Outreach Initiative at Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which aims to alter the makeup of that organization.

"The idea is to create a model that all clubs can use to reach out to Latino youth and to support Latino families," explained Santiago Marquez, director of Latino outreach for Boys and Girls Clubs of America. "The beauty of the Latino Outreach Initiative is it's a strategy: outreach, programming, staff development and sustainability."

Grant money helps start programs for the Latino community at selected clubs across the country, "but they must continue after that," Marquez explained. Clubs are advised to add Latino community members to their boards of directors and to network with other advocacy agencies in the area. "Increase Latino board members and staff, increase programs of interest to Latinos, and make everything integrated-available to everyone," Marquez said. "These are key elements that will help an organization transform itself."

Whatever portion of the population you decide to target with your new initiatives, keeping things integrated is vital and can only enhance the experience of those using your services. Bocelli-Hernandez is not only in tune with the Latino community and the things they need to thrive in a new environment, she also wants to acquaint others in Durham with what Latino culture has to offer. To this effect, she has developed classes like bilingual international cooking, Spanish and folkloric dance.

"Those programs are for anybody," she said. "We try to cover all the angles."

And with all the angles covered, you're bound to be serving a happy community.