Community Assets

One of the strongest assets for the community of San Pierre is the work of the Center for Rural Outreach and Public Service (CROPS) and its Director, Beverly Santicola. CROPS has helped form the San Pierre Revitalization Project, to promote economic development, tourism, and community health by capitalizing on the existing assets of the community. A professional grant writer by trade, Beverly works tirelessly, donating her own time and expertise, to secure grants and funding for San Pierre Revitalization Projects. Since the Revitalization Project began in March 2005, the following funds have been generated from grants and donations:

  • USDA - Indiana OCRA- $48,600 Comprehensive Plan
  • USDHHS - Administration for Children & Families - $48,415 Capacity Building
  • USDHHS- HRSA - $84,695 Rural Health Network Plan (Technology Driven)
  • Indianapolis Colts - $1,000 grant for basketball court
  • Indianapolis Colts - $300 grant for landscaping around Welcome Signs
  • Indiana Youth Institute - federal sub-award $23,527 - grant for equipment & training
  • Ball Brothers Foundation - $22,500 for video documentary training manual by youth
  • Starke County Community Foundation - $2,200 for San Pierre "Welcome to" signs
  • Starke County Community Foundation - $2,500 for basketball court/tennis courts
  • Starke County Community Foundation - $3,100 for renovations to Lions Club
  • San Pierre Athletics - $3,896 grant for basketball court
  • REMC - $2,500 awarded for park upgrades at San Pierre Park in 2005
  • REMC - $2,500 awarded for park upgrades at San Pierre Park in 2007
  • NIPSCO - $300 for landscaping at (Lions Club) Community Education Center
  • Memorial Contributions - $3,000 for San Pierre Revitalization
  • In-kind Donations - estimated at $353,700 from San Pierre Lions Club & Park
  • Individual Donations - $15,000 for San Pierre Revitalization
  • Emil Smolek Farms - Trust established to provide $2,000 annually

The San Pierre Revitalization Project, in developing plans for its "youth-led rural development initiative", identified five existing assets in San Pierre:

  • an active and engaged youth,
  • the unique sandhill crane migration,
  • the town's railroad history,
  • surrounding oak savannahs, and
  • a strong agricultural heritage
We would add to this list an active and engaged community, as evidenced by the attendance and participation in town meetings for this planning process and the overwhelming participation in our community surveys. The citizens of San Pierre have also demonstrated their ability to organize and collectively voice their concerns to County and State agencies regarding the future development of their town, whether the issue be the straightening of US Highway 421 through the middle of town, or a proposal to build an ethanol plant nearby.

The community of San Pierre has another wonderful asset in the San Pierre High School Alumni. The alumni organization is connected to several hundred graduates living all across the country, many of whom gather each year in San Pierre for a high school renunion.

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A unique asset to the San Pierre community is its close proximity to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. Although the Wildlife Area straddles two counties (Jasper and Pulaski), it actually sits closer to San Pierre than to any other town. Run by the Department of Natural Resources - Division of Fish and Wildlife, Jasper-Pulaski maintains 8,062 acres of wetland, upland and woodland game habitat. The area was designated as a game farm and game preserve in the 1930s. Hunting began at the property in 1958, and in 1965, the area was designated as a fish and game area. In 1972 the name was changed to the Japser-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. Two observation towers provide great viewing points to see the more than 10,000 sandhill cranes that stop here every year during their fall migration.

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CROPS has begun to attract national media attention for their recent activities in San Pierre. The following article was published by Planetizen, one of the leading planning and development resources on the web, read by professional urban planners, developers, architects, policy makers, educators, economists, civic enthusiasts and others from across the United States and around the world.

Not Your Typical Redevelopment Board
Planetizen - The Planning & Development Network
(http://www.planetizen.com/node/29187)
21 January 2008 - 5:00am
Author: Therese Schmidt

With little else to do, teenagers in the rural Indiana town of San Pierre have found
a new place to hang out: community meetings. But they're not just hanging out, they
are actively participating in the planning and revitalization of their community.

On a typical Friday night in America teenagers hang out with their friends on their
neighborhood corner, or at the mall, or maybe at the local movie theater. But for
teenagers living in San Pierre, a small, unincorporated rural farming community
located 80 miles from Chicago in northwestern Indiana, this isn't the case.

Despite its small size, San Pierre was once a thriving community. It was home to more
than 34 different businesses, and was surrounded by farmland and people gainfully
employed in agriculture, retail sales, banking or other service industries. Unfortunately,
like many other small rural communities in America, San Pierre has experienced a long
streak of economic decline; it is now the second most distressed area in the state. Today
there are no gas stations, grocery stores, elementary/secondary schools, pharmacies,
hospitals, movie theaters, baseball leagues, or manufacturing plants, and the population
of San Pierre has dwindled to just 156 people. Buildings stand vacant and dilapidated,
and what infrastructure remains is crumbling and in desperate need of repair. And for
teenagers, finding a place to hang out isn't that easy.

An Unconventional Teenage Hangout
But some of the teenagers of San Pierre have managed to find a place to meet, though
it may seem a little unusual. The youth of San Pierre can now be found at community
meetings, where they take an active part in the planning the redevelopment of their
town. They ended up there with the assistance of the Center for Rural Outreach &
Public Services (CROPS), a group on a mission to bring together intergenerational
volunteers for the benefit of the community. CROPS was founded in 2004 as a
grassroots nonprofit organization that provides services to rural communities such
as grant writing training, board development, strategic planning, and capital campaigns
for building and redevelopment. CROPS launched the San Pierre Revitalization Project
in 2005 and created several committees to carry out the project which are made up of
adult and youth members, including: the CROPS Board of Directors (4 youth and 5
adults), the San Pierre Revitalization Project Committee (3 youth and 3 adults), and
the Youth Leadership Committee (20 youth).

The Role of Youth in San Pierre's Revitalization
The youth members played an integral part in determining the scope and phasing
of the Project, which will consist of multi-phases that capitalize on San Pierre's
existing community assets, including:

  1. A rich history of railroading
  2. The annual sandhill crane migration to the nearby Jasper-Pulaski Fish and
    Wildlife Area, where up to 28,000 birds roost on peak evenings between
    October and December - an event that brings out an estimated 30,000
    tourists each year
  3. The area's unique farmland, where farmers produce alfalfa, peppermint,
    spearmint, sunflowers, soybeans, and corn
  4. The area's oak savannas, which support the region's biological diversity; and
  5. Youth who care about their hometown and want to make a difference.

Phase One of the Project involves improving existing community facilities to
provide basic programs and services that will lay the foundation for future
project activities, promote tourism, and improve the quality of life for residents
of the community. Projects planned in Phase One include:

  1. Creating a bicycle and pedestrian loop trail system that connects the town of
    San Pierre with the surrounding farmlands, oak savannahs, and wildlife preserve
  2. Installing sidewalks and streetlights
  3. Landscaping along US 421 and SR 10
  4. Renovating the Lions Club Building to become a Community Center; and
  5. Making necessary facility improvements at the San Pierre Park.

Even with limited resources, results of the community's revitalization efforts are evident.
In just two short years the youth of San Pierre have made huge strides in completing
Phase One of the Project. In the process they have gained a sense of civic pride and a
desire to continue to improve their community. The intergenerational model developed
in San Pierre provides small communities with an opportunity to utilize all of their
resources including the creativity and fresh perspectives of their youth.

Therese Schmidt is an independent consultant providing current, long range, and
environmental planning; historical assessments; and grant writing services throughout
the San Francisco Bay Area. Her professional planning career has included positions in
both public and private agencies as well as an internship in Russia. She is currently
coordinating publication of a book,
The History of Menlo Park, with Arcadia Press for
their Images of America series.

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