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Two National Excellence Awards For Potter County

June 10th, 2024

Potter County has been chosen for two national excellence awards by the National Assn. of Counties. Just six of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties were recognized for excellence. Potter was the lone county among them to receive two awards. They are in recognition of “No Veteran Left Behind,” based on the launch of a Veterans Transportation Program; and “Revitalize Potter County,” a series of strategies to address population loss and outmigration of young adults, starting with the launch of the Potter County Creative Council. Summaries of the county’s award-winning initiatives have been posted on the NACo website as follows:

No Veteran Left Behind: Potter County is sparsely populated and remotely situated. There is little to no access to public transportation. Availability of health care is also limited. Among the most underserved residents are our military veterans. There is no VA medical facility in the county. Many of our veterans are senior citizens with low incomes who lack the means to access quality health care. In 2022, a coalition of veterans’ advocates embarked on a lofty mission – a transportation service dedicated solely to taking veterans to medical appointments. This team effort was coordinated by the Potter County Department of Human Services (PCHS), with support from the Potter County Commissioners, Potter County Director of Veterans Services, American Legion/VFW posts, and community supporters. Widespread support, appreciation and respect for military veterans, coupled with the judicious and innovative use of state and county funding, have made the Potter County Veterans Medical Transportation Program a reality. It is funded annually as a line item in Potter County’s Human Services Block Grant provided by the state. Local veterans’ advocates, community organizations, businesses and individuals support the service through fundraisers and outreach activities. As a result, any eligible military veteran can access transportation for medical care.

Revitalize Potter County: Potter County has been gutted by population loss, youth outmigration, a struggling economy, and a rising median age (47.4 years) that now hovers nearly 10 years above the national average (38.1). At the same time, COVID and social factors have been prompting many young families to pursue a rural lifestyle. Many are seeking affordable housing, high-speed internet access, outdoor recreational opportunities, and vibrant communities. Potter County checks each of those boxes – with the exception of the latter. In 2022, a team of stakeholders spearheaded by the Potter County Board of Commissioners embarked on a strategic plan to revitalize the communities of Potter County with an intensive focus five core areas. Among them was developing arts and cultural activities. In 2023, this innovative mission bore fruit. An arts council that had been dormant for nearly a decade was revitalized. National and state arts/culture organizations provided support, while a broad cross-section of public officials, artisans, community leaders, volunteers, school administrators and other key stakeholders came aboard. “Revitalize Potter County” was off and running.

The awards will be presented during the NACo Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla., on July 13.

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