Watch and read summaries of presentations from three community members who spoke about different topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging from their lived experiences.
On February 1 , 2023, we held our 2022 Annual Meeting at Blue Heron Events in Greencastle. Along with a delicious breakfast our attendees received updates on new board of director appointments, campaign, program, and organizational updates to include introducing new United Way of Franklin County (UWFC) staff members Kelly Reynolds and Kimberly Stephens. The speakers that followed focused around the theme "Profiles of Inclusion in Franklin County" and included: Wes Fugate, Wilson College President; Clint Bolte, Principal of C. Bolte and Associates and longtime UWFC volunteer; and Lance Walker, owner of Walker’s Barber Shop and recent recipient of the Borough Council Citizen of the Year award.
Wes Fugate, Wilson College President and creator of the Wilson College President’s Commission on DEI, opened the 30-minute speaking series by reminding attendees that diversity, equity, and inclusion is a human issue and not a political issue. Wilson College was originally formed so women could receive an outstanding education when they couldn’t otherwise, and that is a very human part of Wilson’s 154-year history. Fugate went on to share his personal experiences navigating difficult circumstances as an openly gay man in our community and his professional experiences trying to hire and retain Wilson College staff when local political decisions brought Chambersburg into the national spotlight. President Fugate shared that Wilson College has fallen behind with some of the college’s DEI plans but has also made great strides, as well. Through both experiences have come a variety of lessons. He took us through lessons like learning the history, listening, expecting setbacks, understanding that no one has all the answers, and acknowledging that we will all make mistakes. President Fugate ended his remarks by reminding us to be kind and compassionate to one another so we can continue to make Franklin County a welcoming place to all who live, work, and play here.
The next speaker, Clint Bolte, is an active UWFC volunteer and 1992 campaign chair. Clint spoke to attendees about the rich history Chambersburg has of welcoming refugees from war torn countries and he described how five different Syrian families have been placed here since 2017. The community comes together in a variety of ways to make sure the families get the support they need, such as helping meet their basic needs and having access to things like free music and swim lessons from our local nonprofits. Bolte shared that most families are on their own financially within two years of their initial placement. Our hearts were warmed by the stories Clint recounted of how the kids placed here due to war in their countries have had a positive impact on our school system, so much so that one principal publicly announced that he wanted all refugee children to attend his elementary school in Chambersburg! We learned that the caring power of our community to include churches, nonprofits, healthcare entities like Keystone Health, and citizen groups step up to welcome refugee families and walk alongside them as the make their way in the United States.
Our last speaker was well-known barber and DEI advocate and champion, Lance Walker. Walker has used his popular barbershop as a platform for courageous conversations around a variety of topics, which is one of many reasons he received the Citizen of the Year award from Chambersburg Borough Council. He opened his remarks with a powerful quote, the last of which was “…and may we be brutally honest with ourselves so that we can be sincerely honest with others.” It is this portion of the quote that was the focus of Walker’s personal story he shared. His story involved one of his customers who held a different belief system and how he had to navigate his feelings around their differences, recognizing that his thoughts and actions weren’t in line with his own core beliefs. Through introspective work over a period of time, Walker had several realizations that led him to eventually openly share this story with others to include his customer, which further led to asking forgiveness. He concluded his remarks and the speaker series by encouraging all of us to do introspective work when our prejudices and biases arise, and to be brutally honest with ourselves so that we can be sincerely honest with others.
We hope you take the time to watch the full presentation and enjoy the wonderful profiles of inclusion in Franklin County.