More than 100 community and business leaders throughout Orrville gathered at Heartland Point on Sept. 22 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Heartland Education Community, Inc.
The late afternoon reception included mingling, guest speakers and a ceremonial tree planting in front of the building. Tim Smucker, one of the organization’s founding members, spoke first. He shared stories about how the group began and how they were sitting around the table discussing what it was they were trying to accomplish and realized it was simply to “shift the focus from school to education and shift the responsibility from school to community”—a phrase that remains a guiding principle for Heartland today.
Smucker also told the reception guests that Heartland Steering Committee meetings are held at 6:30 a.m. because it was the only time that members of the group could agree upon as one without prior commitments.
Maribeth Burns, Heartland Steering Committee chair; Jon Ritchie, Orrville School District superintendent; and Dave Handwerk, mayor of Orrville, also spoke about their experiences with Heartland and the organization’s accomplishments throughout its 25-year history. All of the day’s speakers emphasized the importance of community involvement, thanking the many volunteers it has taken to support the Heartland initiative.
Burns mentioned that Heartland’s priorities are reviewed annually to be sure they are aligned with educational issues within the schools and community. Over the past 25 years, these priorities have resulted in various Heartland activities such as character education and the Heartland Character Words of the Month program, a technology plan for the school district, a long-range school facilities plan, OrrViews community paper, Heartland Point, support for English Language Learner families within the community, and an emphasis on college and career readiness.
The anniversary event concluded with a ceremonial tree planting to commemorate Heartland’s 25th anniversary and to symbolize the future growth of educational opportunities in the community.