At the start of the year, four agencies – Barberton Community Foundation, the City of Barberton, Barberton City School District and Summa Health System – commissioned a community needs assessment for Barberton. Now, they are set to release the report’s executive summary to the public in the coming weeks.
Barberton Community Foundation introduced the needs assessment as an important piece in future planning. “As a collective, we wanted to know Barberton’s top needs at the community and individual levels,” said Dr. Suzanne Allen, executive director of Barberton Community Foundation. “The Foundation is assessing our strategic goals for the next several years, and we need reliable data to help us make informed decisions.”
Measurement Resources Company (MRC), an organizational development and research firm headquartered in Powell, Ohio, was selected to conduct a city-wide survey, engage focus groups and deliver data-driven results to questions designed to identify needs, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities within the city.
“MRC partners with nonprofit organizations and government agencies in leading community-level data collection efforts, and then synthesizes and analyzes that data,” said Sheri Chaney Jones, president, MRC. “We used a mixed methods approach for this community needs assessment so that we could engage and incorporate the voices of more than 1,100 individuals throughout the Barberton community. By providing community members a mechanism to offer confidential and structured feedback about their perceptions of Barberton, the community helped to identify the greatest challenges that Barberton faces, as well as its top opportunities and attributes.”
Barberton residents and workers identified their top strengths and values as “high appreciation” for parks and natural resources; a sense of shared history and culture; a high degree of pro-social attitudes emphasizing community, support and a high valuation of family; a stable population with large numbers of mid-life and work-age adults; strong K-12 school system with perceived high attendance; and a perception that healthcare services are useful for children and mothers along with recent improvements in mental health treatment resources.
Identified challenges were condensed into four top categories such as improvements to road conditions and sidewalks; a need for increased financial stability; greater collaboration and trust between residents, current or prospective business owners and city leadership; and greater diversity and inclusion for people of color, single mothers and individuals of different ages and abilities with respect to Barberton’s social dynamics and recreational opportunities.
The data was collected from February 15 to April 30, 2022 and was targeted toward people who live and/or work in Barberton. More than 1,100 surveys were completed using both online and paper survey formats. Twelve focus groups met representing local business owners, community members of minority race and/or ethnicity groups, low-income households, social services providers, Fire/EMS personnel, parents of children with disabilities, older adults and others. Secondary data from additional sources like the American Community Survey, County Health Rankings and the U.S. Census supplemented MRC’s methodology.
Mayor Bill Judge, City of Barberton, said that the top needs did not come as a surprise, and thanked MRC for the report. “I’m grateful to have a third party review our biggest needs as a city,” he said. “It comes as no surprise to residents that road conditions and infrastructure are top concerns, and we already have plans underway as we continue to work to address these concerns.” Mayor Judge concluded that the strengths found in the study reflect what makes Barberton unique. “The people of Barberton really believe in and value this community. Barberton pride is real. Seeing that reflected in the survey gives me hope we can overcome our challenges.”
Dr. Michael Hughes, president of the Summa Health System – Barberton Campus, said it is encouraging to see the strengths of the community reflected in the study. “There are many qualities that make our city great, and the needs assessment is an important tool to help us better understand how to continue to grow our community,” he said. “At Summa, we are very focused on providing not only outstanding healthcare, but also opportunities for meaningful employment on our Barberton campus and across the organization.”
Since the beginning of his tenure as president of the campus, Dr. Hughes has prioritized keeping the Barberton campus engaged and active within the community. “It’s part of our commitment to being a good community partner,” he said. “From the individual level, where each of our employees is encouraged to volunteer in the community, to the organizational level where we are at the table supporting City initiatives, we are focused on collaboration and building on the many attributes that attract people who want to live, work and raise a family here.” He hopes his approach will contribute to a growing population that puts roots in Barberton.
Barberton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ramnytz shared the sentiments of many regarding the partnership of four Barberton entities, saying, “The needs assessment is a very important baseline to gauge how our citizens feel about our community. Barberton is a very special place. I’ve never seen in any other place a greater collaborative and supportive nature between the city, the schools, the local hospital, the Foundation, the business community and our citizens.”
He added, “In the Barberton City Schools, we have many opportunities for our children and families. We have amazing staff members, programming, support systems, and connections with businesses that provide good paying career pathways. Our hope, as always, is for our students and families to take advantage of what we have to offer.”
Barberton Community Foundation, the City of Barberton, Barberton City School District and Summa Health System will take this survey results into consideration for each organization’s strategic planning.