Heart & Soul Hero Award: Carlisle Community Action Network

June 4, 2020

Congratulations to the Carlisle Community Action Network, including network organizers Margee Ensign and Jennifer Love, for receiving one of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s first-ever Heart & Soul Hero Awards!

The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent shutdown brought many challenges to cities and towns across the world as they adapted to social distancing and other health and safety requirements. Despite the difficulties, Pennsylvania’s residents showed their resilience and strength by working together to meet the needs of their neighbors. 

To acknowledge some of the many people who supported their communities during this time, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) created the Heart & Soul Hero Award. The award honors local heroes in communities that PHC has partnered with through Community Heart & Soul, a humanities-based initiative that uses resident stories and community conversations to spark collective decision-making and action.   

The Carlisle Community Action Network, nominated by Lindsay Varner (Community Outreach Director of the Cumberland County Historical Society), was among six recipients recognized as Heart & Soul Heroes for their outstanding community service. Each awardee receives a certificate, a virtual award ceremony, and a spotlight article. 

“The recipients of these awards displayed resilience, compassion, and action in a time when their communities needed it most,” said Jen Danifo, PHC’s Senior Program Officer and host of the Heart & Soul Hero virtual award ceremonies. “This is what Community Heart & Soul is all about and PHC is honored to have the opportunity to uplift their work.”

Carlisle Community Action Network (CAN) is a group of 70+ community members that meet weekly via Zoom to discuss actions and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking the lead in coordinating this group is the President of Dickinson College, Margee Ensign, with support from Dickinson’s Assistant Chief of Staff, Jennifer Love, and other participants. Ensign, Love, and all of CAN were selected as Heart & Soul Heroes for quickly jumping into action to meet the needs of Carlisle and reaching across cultural divides to ensure everyone had a voice in the process.

CAN hosted weekly discussions, helped launch an online resource page to keep the community informed, connected local businesses with Dickinson College student helpers, supported a food bank, organized the bottling and provision of hand sanitizer to residents, and engaged in outreach to vulnerable populations in the community.

“Whenever a new issue arose there was never the question of ‘could we do it?’ It was ‘how quickly can we move, and who wants to be involved in it?’” said Ensign.

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