BELTON — Texas Community Future Forums have been held all over the state this spring to determine the focus of AgriLife programming in the future.
On Tuesday, the Bell County Futures Forum gathered individuals together to talk about needs within communities. The forums are held every five years.
The purpose of the local forum is to identify community based needs; identify issues impacting Bell County; provide solutions and develop educational programs.
People who attended the forum broke up into the three groups, based on the interest and expertise of the participants.
Representatives from the county, Belton, McLane Children’s, Health Department; Temple school district; Temple College, community clinics; agencies; and more participated in the discussion.
Topics addressed included Agriculture and Natural Resources, 4H and Youth Development, and Family and Community Health.
Jackie McLaughlin, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Bell County-Family and Community Health, led the group focused on Family and Community Health. The Extension service offers a number of programs on various topics that are offered throughout the community.
“We work with many of you, so think about how we can reach more of the families you serve and think about issues that need to be addressed,” she said.
Ebony Jackson, with Bell County Indigent Health and president of the Bell County Homeless Coalition, said that having access to affordable housing has a direct connection to disparities in social, health and financial well being.
The group focused on Family and Community Health brainstormed on issues important to them, ranging from sex education for all ages; drug and alcohol use; accessible living; education for growing food; mental health; and supportive housing and more.
Each item was added to a list. Once the list was complete the pages were put up on the wall. Participants were given 10 green dots that they used to signify the importance of the item. The dots were counted and the list was pared down.
Following another discussion about selected focus items, participants were then given 10 orange dots and had the opportunity to vote again on the perceived significance of the remaining items.
The top seven items made it on to the final list.
When the forum came to an end, each group had narrowed down the immediate needs to seven areas.
The topics under Ag and Natural Resources were: Bell County transition from rural to urban, small acreage land owners; Loss of productive agricultural land, storm water management, feral hog control, population growth, and state and federal regulations.
Issues considered most important by 4-H and Youth Development group were: leadership development, needs assessment, program access, ag awareness and program development, organizational awareness, volunteer day and Parent involvement.
Family and Community Health identified the following as areas of the most interest and needs: mental health support awareness and education; access to healthy food; health and prescription, medical literacy; life skills — youth; transportation — all ages, awareness; sex trafficking/child abuse, education and awareness; and stress on caregivers, respite.