FOCUS Greater Syracuse
Purpose Prize Fellow 2006
Tapping community creativity to impact change
Charlotte (Chuckie) Holstein, 80, created the nonprofit F.O.C.U.S. (Forging Our Community’s United Strength) in 1998 to engage local citizens and organizations to address the major economic, social, and environmental issues facing the Syracuse, NY region. With the vision and input of thousands of people, 87 goals were initiated, all germane to building a sustainable community. To meet the challenges facing the area, citizens prepared strategic plans of action to: 1) improve the water quality of a significantly polluted lake, 2) revitalize an economically depressed downtown area; 3) promote community preparedness for the impact on municipalities resulting from the large numbers of retiring baby boomers; and 4) create a free, 10-week “Citizens’ Academy” to encourage civic engagement and an understanding of how government works. Since then, the plans have begun to be implemented, improvements are underway, and civic engagement has significantly increased as a result. Through its work and its partnerships across the community, F.O.C.U.S. enables citizens to become increasingly involved in improving the quality of life and economic future of the area.