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 Outreach Committee 2010

During the past year, the Outreach Committee has tackled a number of issues concerning the welcoming and integrating of newcomers. Our work, which took its foundation from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s recommendations on outreach efforts, focuses not only on how to expand the view of Downingtown Friends Meeting, making it seem larger and more vibrant in both the general Quaker community and the greater Downingtown community, but also on how to increase the sense of welcoming, encouragement, and explanation for those “friends” who walk through our Meeting House doors for the first time.

New Meeting Brochure
To aid in this, we completely redid the welcome brochure that we had created last year, developing an eye-catching bi-fold on the theme of "Look into our Meeting" that gives guests who come to Meeting for the first time information about our Meeting. We have found that the brochure helps keep the Meeting in newcomers’ minds. To make our brochure easily accessible, One of our committee members constructed new racks for both the Meeting House vestibule and the Schoolhouse, and also made an all-weather brochure box with a Plexiglas cover so that visitors can obtain a brochure if no one else is around.

The brochure, as well, contains information on how to find information about Downingtown Friends Meeting through our Web site which has become one of our Meeting’s most innovative outreach tools. To further make visitors feel at home, we’ve put up welcome signs on the main bulletin boards in our Schoolhouse.

Local Search
In addition, another committee member registered our Meeting on Google’s Local Search to make it easier for people to find us using their computers and smart phones. Local Search provides a map, photos, and even a place for people to leave reviews—an important feature in today’s social networking world. During a recent month 189 people visited our Google listing and 107 of them went on to view our Web site. According to the keywords that they used, all were new visitors.

The Quaker Way Booth
The Outreach Committee also now oversees The Quaker Way booth at our annual Friends Fall Festival. This insures that this vehicle for bringing our community to the attention of others does not fall short. We focused our efforts during last year’s Friends Fall Festival on catching the eye of quickly moving visitors, and then engaging them when they approached us. We did this by displaying a slideshow of photos of people and activities from Meeting on our T.V. using a DVD. We also positioned the tables and displays on the Meeting House porch, so they could best be viewed by visitors as they entered or left the building, providing shelter from the elements.

Members of the Outreach Committee greeted visitors and offered them our informational brochures and handouts, as well as offered peace-sign hand stamps to kids. Our exhibit, completely redesigned for a more bold graphic look with new photographs and information, carried over the theme of our Web site and showed a family worshiping together at Meeting, as well as photographs of Meeting activities.

We directed those inquirers wanting information about the Meeting House, itself, and its history to two long-time members of our Meeting, who were graciously on hand throughout the Festival.

Welcome Social
On September 20, 2009, the Outreach Committee held its first Welcome Social at the rise of Meeting. We invited anyone who had started coming to Meeting within the last two years. Not only did a good number of newcomers attend, but many people from Meeting joined us as well. After helping themselves to refreshments, everyone sat in a circle and introduced themselves. All in all, it was a very successful event, one that we plan to hold again sometime this year.

Good Neighbor Day
We participated in the annual Good Neighbor Day celebration, held in Downingtown’s Kerr Park, on July 3, 2010. Our display, alongside other church, non-profit, and service organization booths, consisted of the Quaker Way fold out from Friends Fall Festival. To welcome visitors, we gave out free cups of lemonade and handed out brochures with information about Downingtown Friends Meeting.

Members of the committee staffed the booth from 8 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. with help from other members and attenders. Many passersby took away our new brochure about the Meeting, while a half a dozen or so individuals/couples stopped by for serious and sustained discussion about Downingtown Friends and Quakerism generally.

From the response we received, this event would appear to be a very good venue in which to reach out to the larger community. We plan to do it next year as well, with some slight changes.

Meeting Promotion
Throughout the year, the Outreach Committee has had articles, highlighting our Meeting’s activities, published in PYM News, the Daily Local News of West Chester, and the Community News. This is an important promotional tool that helps to get the word out about what our Meeting is doing to the greater Downingtown community. We want everyone to know what goes in the stone building behind the two huge oak trees along Lancaster Avenue.

Operation Welcome
Our ongoing effort is “Operation Welcome,” a program to make those at Meeting more aware of the importance of welcoming newcomers and visitors. A short presentation by another of our committee members introduced our new Meeting brochure and briefly told what Outreach is doing for Meeting.

The main presentation, held at one of our Opening Exercises and led by yet another of our members, utilized roleplaying to help members and attenders understand how to effectively welcome newcomers with the goal of making everyone in Meeting a welcomer. Also, it’s important to know why people do or do not come back, even if they’ve received a warm welcome.

Presently, we track newcomers as best we can and keep a record of them in an effort to integrate them into our Meeting community. During the next year, we plan on developing ways to do this. Integrating newcomers into our Meeting community is our most important goal.

Submitted Sept. 26, 2010

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