Canvass of West End to address community needs

  • Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Taylor Griffith/ South Strand News A group of volunteers and Duke University students facilitating the West End canvass prepare their route before leaving The Mitney Project.

This summer The Mitney Project volunteers and staff, teamed up with Duke University students, will be knocking on doors in the West End of Georgetown and interviewing residents about their community.

“They’re asking people what they see as the strengths of our community, why they love Georgetown and the growth they envision for the community,” said Leslie Di Mitri, Mitney Project executive director.

Canvass teams will be going door to door, asking residents to complete paper surveys and participate in oral interviews. The data gathered will help guide The Mitney Project and its partner organizations to provide programs and services that meet the needs of the community, Di Mitri said.

She said a similar study was used to help guide The Mitney Project when it was first started.

“We did a feasibility study before we started [The Mitney Project] that included 300 oral interviews and printed surveys. That was part of the matrix for The Mitney Project. That’s where some of our most popular programs, like the dance program and computer class, came out of.”

The original goal for this year’s canvass was to speak with 1,200 people, but was reduced after they realized it was a bit lofty.

The interviews started in mid-June.

The initiative is being completed through a partnership with Duke University. Five student participants in the Benjamin N. Duke Scholars program are spending their summer with The Mitney Project to complete the canvass, and Di Mitri said they have been instrumental throughout the process. The scholars wrote the questionnaires, are helping facilitate the interviews and will be writing the canvass summary report at the conclusion of the summer.

“The point is to identify places of need in the community, and hopefully The Mitney Project can partner with organizations to address those needs,” said Tanner Lockhead, one of the Duke scholars and a canvass team leader.

He said so far education has emerged as a common topic for improvement throughout the interviews.

The canvass will continue until August, at which point the scholars will take their data back to Duke to write reports for analysis.

Shakeema Smalls, Mitney Project program associate, said the community has been responding well to the canvassers’ inquiries.

“People we’ve talked to thus far are active members of our community. We’ve noticed the tone is vibrant,” she said.

The canvassers are asking a variety of questions, including demographic information. Smalls said she’s most interested to see how many members of the community identify as Gullah Geechee.

Evelyn and James Wragg, of Georgetown, both volunteered to participate in the canvass facilitation.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes, see what our young members have to say,” said Evelyn.

“I was born and raised right here in Georgetown,” said James, 81.

“Georgetown has a lot of improvements. We always had it moving and we keep moving. I like what you people are doing [with this canvass].

“Georgetown is a beautiful place, that’s why I admire you people going around and talking with the community. It takes people like y’all to make this community keep improving.”

The canvassers have small goals, but overall Di Mitri said The Mitney Project’s hope is the interviews will reveal the system is working.

“I can say we hope for some validation of the programs we already have, and some help for the ones we’re planning to put in place.

“It will be great to hone in on things with the most critical need,” she said.

Community members are encouraged to participate, and interviews are anonymous.

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