WENATCHEE — Our Valley Our Future, the nonprofit community planning organization, is launching the next phase of its visioning process, trying to imagine the Wenatchee Valley after COVID-19.
Pandemic recovery is a key part of the group’s new community survey, leaders told a media conference on Wednesday. Board president David Olson said the Our Valley, Stronger program is “a major community outreach, visioning, and planning project that will lead to a new five-year action plan, designed to help our residents achieve their vision of the future.”
Since its founding in 2015, Our Valley Our Future has focused on finding out what was affecting the lives of Wenatchee Valley residents, brainstorming solutions, and pushing them forward to civic leaders and agencies who could make a difference.
But to do that, it needs public input. On Wednesday, the group promoted the start of its second five-year plan process, starting with an online survey of the community’s needs. The Our Valley, Stronger project wants to envision the region once the COVID-19 pandemic is on the wane, and it wants to do so with equity toward all residents.
“During the last year we have seen an increased burden of disease within the Latinx residents,” said Teresa Bendito, an Our Valley Our Future contributor and founder of the community group Parque Padrinos. “… It also hit a community that includes folks that were not able to access the same amounts of resources as others. Because of their immigration status, some were not able to receive unemployment benefits or stimulus checks to support their families.
“For these reasons, it is imperative for recovery plans and inititatives to include the diverse voices and experiences of all members of our community.”
Our Valley was one of the first to identify the local housing crisis caused by rising rents and property costs. the staggering increase in the cost of local housing. New partners for Our Valley Our Future include the city of Leavenworth, where those costs have been keenly felt.
“One thing that the COVID pandemic taught us is that we aren’t in our own little silos, that we are truly interdependent,” said Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea, whose city council approved participation with Our Valley Our Future by a unanimous vote. “And the fact is Leavenworth hasn’t done a lot to increase housing for its own workforce, and the ripple effect of that is that it spreads all the way down the valley and puts pressure on all of the other housing. But Leavenworth isn’t going to solve that on its own.”