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JMU's Project R.E.A.C.H. looking to solve issues facing local communities

Project R.E.A.C.H. is working directly with community members to identify and work through an...
Project R.E.A.C.H. is working directly with community members to identify and work through an important issue affecting their area.(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 1, 2020 at 5:50 PM EST
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Faculty and staff members from James Madison University are collaborating with communities to make positive changes and prioritizing issues directly affecting communities.

Project R.E.A.C.H., the Rural Engagement and Capacity-Building Hub, is working with community members to have discussions about local issues and what can be done to solve them.

"We're moving toward projects that JMU can do it collaboration with the community, that is community-driven, it's not JMU coming in and solving a problem," Margaret Sloan, with Project R.E.A.C.H., said. "It's a community identifying what's happening and working with resources and the university to make some positive change."

Project R.E.A.C.H. made their second stop in Timberville today, where people were asked to voice their opinions on issues in their community. After deciding issues, assets of the community are discussed and next, meeting attendees are given the opportunity to vote on what issues they care about most.

"We're looking at what are the assets and what are the resources within the community because these are people that understand where they live, they understand what those needs are and they understand how to make things better," Margaret Sloan, with Project R.E.A.C.H., said.

After a vote today, Timberville citizens decided that affordable and accessible transportation was what they wanted their community project would be focused on.

Projects R.E.A.C.H. is looking to JMU, state agencies and local sponsors to help fund projects around the valley.

Sloan said Project R.E.A.C.H. hopes this is the beginning of a much bigger community involvement project.

"These projects are just the beginning of an ongoing partnership so that we can get students involved in these projects, we can get more elected officials, agency heads and organizational leaders within the communities to collaborate on these kinds of things," Sloan said.

She said the focus on projects can vary in each community based on their specific concerns.

Project R.E.A.C.H. already made their stops in Mount Jackson and Timberville but they have additional community meetings in the upcoming weeks in other towns:

The Health Place in Stanley on March 15 and 22 at 1 p.m.

Veterans of Foreign Affairs on Hwy 211 in Luray on March 17 and 24 at 6:30 p.m.

New Market Town Hall in New Market on March 29 at 1:30 p.m.

Elkton Community Center in Elkton on April 19 at 3 p.m.

Sloan said if people wish to get involved with these community projects they should email Project R.E.A.C.H. at projectREACH@gmail.com.