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Daviess County to expand IU partnerships with Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative

Jan 30, 2024

Daviess County courthouse Daviess County, which has a population of 33,381, is approximately 40 miles southwest of the IU Bloomington campus. Photo courtesy of the IU Center for Rural Engagement

The Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement and Daviess County will partner to address community-identified projects through the center’s Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative.

Sustaining Hoosier Communities connects IU Bloomington faculty, their courses and the energy of hundreds of students to address a variety of projects, including health and wellness, infrastructure planning and natural resources management. Representing an estimated value of $150,000 in research, inquiry and implementation hours, the initiative brings an extensive suite of university resources to the partnership. It received international recognition as the 2019 Outstanding Program of the Year from the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities-Network.

“Over the past several years, the residents of Daviess County have had the opportunity to engage with regional, state and university partners in a variety of planning programs that have identified what we feel is needed to help local communities thrive,” Washington, Indiana, Mayor David Rhoads said. “Sustaining Hoosier Communities will be able to pair local projects with students to have a great impact, and it will be satisfying to see these projects identified and implemented in all areas of Daviess County.”

This expanded partnership builds upon years of collaboration between Daviess County and IU. County organizations conducted community health improvement planning and secured a $1 million U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration grant to increase access to substance-use-disorder recovery with associate professor Priscilla Barnes and the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. The community launched a food-as-medicine program and joined a comprehensive regional resources hub,, with IU and Purdue University as part of the Indiana Department of Health I-HOPE initiative.

Denny Spinner Denny Spinner, IU Center for Rural Engagement interim executive director. Photo courtesy of the IU Center for Rural Engagement

Daviess County also developed a strategic plan for federal coronavirus recovery funding in partnership with IU and other Indiana higher education institutions through the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program. A recent multimillion dollar investment by IU supports new collaborations at the innovation center WestGate@Crane Technology Park, growing the microelectronics sector of the region’s economy.

“Our partnerships with Daviess County have flourished with the enthusiasm and dedication of the community’s residents and leaders,” said Denny Spinner, IU Center for Rural Engagement interim executive director. “Sustaining Hoosier Communities will bolster the community’s efforts while providing meaningful experiences and illuminating professional pathways for IU students here in Indiana.”

Daviess County is approximately 40 miles southwest of the IU Bloomington campus. It is part of the regional home to NSA Crane, the third largest naval installation in the world, and WestGate@Crane Technology Park. A diverse community, Daviess County is home to the state’s second-largest Haitian population, the seventh-largest Amish settlement in the nation and a growing Hispanic community. Agricultural and industrial businesses such as Perdue Farms Inc., Grain Processing Corp., Olon Industries, M&C Tech and Boyd and Sons Machinery employ local residents.

With a population of 33,381, Daviess County communities include Washington, Odon, Elnora, Montgomery, Plainville, Cannelburg, Alfordsville and Raglesville. The county will be the sixth community to partner with the Center for Rural Engagement on the Sustaining Hoosier Communities initiative.

Community meetings to generate ideas, gather feedback and discuss possible projects and plans will be held on the following dates in February and March (all times are EST):

  • 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 27, Odon Community Center, Odon Park, 311 Park St, in Odon.
  • Noon to 1 p.m. March 4, virtual meeting via Zoom
  • 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 5, Victory Community Church, 2112 Oak Grove Road in Washington. Spanish and Creole interpretation will be available.

These meetings are open to the public. Residents are encouraged to attend any of the scheduled sessions for a full discussion and planning activities.

Residents can contact Cindy Barber, the initiative’s Daviess County community committee coordinator, at or 812-254-8668 to share ideas and learn more about the partnership.


IU Center for Rural Engagement

Kyla Cox Deckard

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