By Brigid O’Rourke
Like so many others, I joined Leadership Morgan Hill to find out more about our community and available service opportunities, but also to meet more of my neighbors. Statistics show that many Morgan Hill residents are commuters and, like many others, I can vouch for the fact that I returned exhausted each night after the brutal commute to Silicon Valley, so taking on more seemed like too much. Then, suddenly, there was retirement and the opportunity to do what I liked to do, but there was something vital missing: regular contact with people and a purpose to guide my actions.
Morgan Hill has an exceptionally active volunteer community and there were dozens of opportunities available, but how to choose the right one for me? That’s when Leadership Morgan Hill was suggested by multiple friends as the ideal way to dive into community service.
Prominent on their website – www.leadershipmorganhill.org is their “elevator speech”:
Leadership Morgan Hill is a training and development program created to inspire future leaders to community service. The local program, founded in 1995, is similar in concept to leadership programs in place in many other California communities. The nine-month leadership program is designed to provide participants with in-depth knowledge of the local political, economic and government structures of our community.
I was interviewed and accepted into the program, which began in January with an orientation and an overnight retreat designed to build familiarity and cohesion with my co-participants. We are a varied bunch with a diverse skill set developed by years in finance, engineering, marketing, public safety, the law, manufacturing, and business management, all skills that would turn out to be essential in navigating our way through the year and its key component: learning leadership through a group service project.
We happily attended workshops on city government, learned about the school system and took a two-day trip to Sacramento to meet legislators and lobbyists, all while immersed in the details of what our project would be. Leadership Morgan Hill’s class project rules mandate a budget of no more than $10,000 for the project, which must be finished by the class graduation in September. Choosing the right project for the group proved an epic task, as we finally narrowed a list of 14 ideas down to three: sensory walls at elementary schools, historical and informational signage around town, or promoting cycling with colorful, visible, and interesting bike racks.
After a good deal of research and several meetings, we chose the new and upgraded bike racks, and Rack N Roll was born. Informal polling showed most residents are unaware of the bike racks that dot the downtown area. Surprisingly, there are 175 available spaces for parking in racks and containers. That’s 70 installations in 48 different locations. We were shocked, too, and came to the conclusion that since most of the racks are painted black or are brushed steel and tucked out of the way, they blend in too well with their background.
After more intense research and lots of discussion we found one of Morgan Hill’s premier metal fabricators, Creative Manufacturing Services, and a bike rack manufacturer in Sacramento, Bicycle Parking LLC, run by former Morgan Hill resident Chris Luyet, prepared to support Rack N Roll. Then began the process of getting the approvals needed for the project. We got an enthusiastic agreement from the Leadership Morgan Hill Board of Directors, then tackled the approvals needed from the city. Chris Ghione, public services director, and Dale Dapp, maintenance manager, walked around town with us for hours as we evaluated the sites. Once we got their buy-in, we moved onto the City Council who voted unanimously in favor of the project. We also consulted with the Library, Culture and Arts Committee, and it was their support that helped with the color choices.
Fundraising has been an overwhelming success. One meeting with the Morgan Hill Downtown Association resulted in enough interest that most of the rack sponsorships were snapped up within three days. In fact, we have had calls from multiple people who would like to extend the program to their location and to other city-owned facilities. It is something we will discuss in the future with the Leadership Morgan Hill board and city.
Installations will start in July, when you will begin to see upgraded bike-themed racks and arched racks with colorful inserts and fresh paint, but until then you can get more information at www.racknroll-lmh.org. There is an interactive map of locations, updates on progress, and links to contact us.
A second generation Californian, Brigid lived all over the country before returning to Morgan Hill and retiring from her marketing and business management career.