By Jake Dougherty, Preserve WV AmeriCorps at Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation
My great story comes from an event I helped lead called Show of Hands. Show of Hands is an event meant to gain community support around positive programs happening in downtown Wheeling. The way it works is: people working on projects in downtown apply to present at the event. The selection committee chooses four projects based on location, need in the community, and void filled. The day of the event, attendees make a suggested donation at the door, and with that, they receive a vote. Attendees hear the presentations and vote on the one they like the most. The project with the most votes receives the money raised at the door, plus $1,000 courtesy of a global law firms whose headquarters are in downtown Wheeling.
After many hours spent building this concept, recruiting projects to present, doing promotions to get attendees there, the event started. With the expectation of about 40 attendees, we were blown away when 40 people were already in the building just 10 minutes after the doors opened. By the time the program began, there were close to 115 attendees and already $720 raised at the door.
The four projects pitched their ideas and attendees were voting when one of our sponsors’ representatives walked up to me and said that they were so impressed with the four projects, their concepts, their presentations, and their initiative that they would like to give each of the projects $1,000. This was a shocking moment to me and the rest of the planning committee.
We determined a way in which this would work… The highest vote getter would receive $1,000 plus the door donations and the other three projects would receive $1,000 even.
After making the announcement of the winning vote getter, we announced this plan and the audience gasped, some even said that they got goosebumps from the announcement.
It was such an incredibly shocking moment, but it has so much more than shock value. 1) From the beginning the concept of Show of Hands was met with incredible support. The program received $5,000 in financial funding (before the unexpected announcement at the event), plus thousands in donated expertise, time, and products. 2)The community turnout was more than we ever could have expected. That shows the need for innovative solutions to get projects started, and that the community wants to get behind these projects. 3) We built new community partners, and they are enthused to be a part of the community. 4) After the fact, all four of the projects that pitched have started their projects and have an immense amount of community support.
This is my great story because through my service my goals were to work with historic resources like buildings and help get them utilized, build organizational and community capacity, and build a culture of social engagement. Not only was this done through a small concept implemented by just a few committed volunteers, but it completed transcended my impact. It has become a well respected project that is supported by many and impacts many.
I grew up in Wheeling. When I decided to leave the city or event during internships during college in town, I never would have expected this program to be this successful. It is something special to see my hometown come together more and more to become a innovative and wonderful place to live and be.