Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement will partner with Orange County for its second Sustaining Hoosier Communities project. Through the collaboration, more than 500 students in 15 courses will take part in work on economic, health and quality of life projects in the southwest central Indiana county throughout the academic year. Planned efforts include a community wellness initiative, an incubator kitchen and a youth artisan apprenticeship program.
The Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative aims to strengthen the health, prosperity and vitality of Indiana communities, particularly in rural areas.
Orange County, with a population a bit under 20,000, is home to the towns of French Lick, West Baden, Orleans and Paoli, which is the county seat. Orange County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Misty Weisensteiner believes the partnership will spark continued collaboration "to create sustainable places to live and a greater quality of life."
IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel says the school is "thrilled" to partner with Orange County, which she says has a large population of IU alums. A project steering committee identified community needs and wants, which also include a social services advocacy center, turning an old railroad corridor into a bike path and a prenatal health and education study.
In 2017, Sustaining Hoosier Communities launched its inaugural project by partnering with Lawrence County. Efforts included an active living plan for the city of Mitchell, a study of possible uses for the Avoca Fish Hatchery, infrastructure planning in Bedford, a dark sky designation for Hoosier National Forest and a community addiction study.