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Community Development

Marc Linit, PhD, associate dean
Mary Simon Leuci, EdD, program director and assistant dean, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

The Community Development program (CD) helps Missouri citizens and communities tap into local strengths by focusing on five major themes: leadership development, decision making, economic viability, inclusion and empowerment, and emergency preparedness. Response to major disasters throughout the state was a significant part of the CD program's efforts during the past year. The following examples are just a few highlights of the program's many efforts.

Through the Community Emergency Management program, CD specialists helped Missouri communities devastated by flooding, tornadoes and drought. Specialists helped guide local long-term recovery committees, which focused on the revival of resilient families, businesses, farms and communities. In addition, CD specialists expanded the use of social media for collaborative recovery and education, and developed a how-to guide that helps communities use social media in disaster recovery. In follow-up evaluations with severely affected communities, long-term recovery committees credited MU Extension for its work in providing educational resources and support.

photo: community development program

Roger Beachy, right, former director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, tours the Old North Grocery Co-op in St. Louis on Feb. 25 with, from left, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group director Sean Thomas; MU Extension community development specialist Kara Lubischer; and Michael Ouart, vice provost and director of MU Extension.

With the help of MU Extension, the Old North Grocery Co-op opened last summer and prides itself for bringing food grown "from 100 feet to 100 miles" of the neighborhood. Previously, only fast food and convenience stores were within easy walking distance of the neighborhood, creating what researchers call a food desert.

A related effort by CD's Community Management Preparedness program assisted the Governor's Faith-Based and Community Service Partnership for Disaster Recovery. This statewide effort helps Missourians' recovery plans by developing and implementing a holistic approach to disaster recovery. CD program representatives helped the governor's partnership maximize public and private resources to foster an integrated system addressing human services, housing, infrastructure, and community and economic development issues.

The CD program developed an After Action Report (AAR) that outlined the efforts taken by regional offices in areas affected by the Joplin tornado and the flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The AAR outlined the strengths and areas of improvement identified by MU Extension specialists within the regions affected by these natural disasters and by other MU Extension specialists throughout the state who provided support and information to the recovery efforts.

Partnering with the statewide network Missouri Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (MOVOAD), the CD program contributes to MOVOAD's ability to coordinate planning efforts of the many voluntary organizations preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters. Member organizations provide more effective and less duplicative services by organizing efforts before disaster strikes. MOVOAD has proven to be the most effective organizational vehicle for the wide variety of volunteers and groups responding to natural disasters and community crises. In addition, the CD program received a contract from MOVOAD's committee on Community Organizations Active in Disaster to develop a manual for emergency response groups that create community-specific emergency response plans.