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Germantown Alliance 2.0 Moves Forward

The new incarnation of the Germantown Alliance, the once powerful civic organization which brought many of Germantown’s social, civic, and church organizations together, continues to gain ground. While the Germantown Alliance had grown dormant for about a decade, Germantown Alliance 2.0 is finding its footing gaining traction in the Germantown community.

The fledgling group held its second meeting on Thursday, Sept. 24 at Black Rock Center for the Arts. About 40 community members including Councilmember Craig Rice, and members of Congressmen Delaney’s staff, to local business owners, and members of the Germantown Historical Society, gathered to hear a presentation on the Germantown Master Plan from the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission and the results of the survey which the Alliance sent to residents and business people over the summer.

The resurrection of the Germantown Alliance is the brainchild of Susan Burkinshaw, who is a member board at Black Rock Center for the Arts and was active in area Parent Teacher Associations; Trish Heffelfinger, Executive Director of the Maryland SoccerPlex; and Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce. Those three ladies have been instrumental in leading the cause to create a unifying social, cultural, civic, and political voice for Germantown.

“We were very pleased with the turnout at the last meeting,” said Balcombe. “We had 43 people show up and at least half of them had attended the initial meeting in May. With all the energy in the room, I am convinced that we have a strong enough core to move forward.”

Burkinshaw, echoed Balcombe’s sentiment. “We had such a great turnout we were literally standing room only in BlackRock’s conference room,” she said.

Leaders and representatives from many local and County organizations attended last week’s meeting, including Montgomery College, local PTAs, and HOAs, the Montgomery County Department of Parks, the Black Rock Center for Arts, Black Hills Regional Park, Montgomery County Police Fifth District, the Boys and Girls Club of Germantown, the Germantown Library, along with Catherine Matthews, the Regional Director of the Montgomery County Government Upcounty Regional Office.

“While we are growing the organization,” said Balcombe, “we want to get everyone up to speed on who we are as a community, so we will continue to develop strong programs. The September presentation was an excellent overview of the demographics of Germantown. In October we will have a briefing from police and November we will have a presentation on transportation. We will also get briefings on education, recreation, legislation, county budgets, etc. This will give us a global understanding of where we are now, then as a group we decide how we want to move forward.”

Once an important part of civic life in Germantown, the Germantown Alliance had all but disappeared in recent years. Formed in the spring of 1976, the Germantown Alliance grew out of an association of local church organizations and other civic organizations, volunteer citizens, and businesses. The Germantown Alliance would work together to be a unified voice for Germantown, it was instrumental in the lobbying the County Council to build Father Hurley Boulevard, but the group has fizzled out for about 10 years leaving Germantown without a unifying voice.

However, Burkinshaw noted that the latest meeting had no participation from Germantown faith-based groups. It is something the group hopes will change with the next meeting.

The meeting was an opportunity to expand the membership responsibilities for the new group. The formation of committees to help govern the group and continue its revival.

“It was pinch-yourself exciting to see that many interested and engaged people at the Germantown Alliance meeting,” said Hefflefinger. “All of us involved in the re-launch are very gratified by the numbers but more so how many signed up for committees. That shows a desire to be involved and to become an active voice in Germantown. We need to sustain the enthusiasm and build on it.”

Balcombe said, “Now we have to focus on developing a strong organizational infrastructure and make sure we continue to reach out to people who should be involved. Our committee structure will allow both of those things to happen. Our Governance Committee will help establish the infrastructure, while Membership and Marketing will make sure we have the right people in the room. We want to make sure that we have strong representation from schools, faith based organizations, home owners associations, etc., so we have to continue to get the word out about the organization and also strategically reach out to those organizations who are working in the community and ask them to join the group.”

At the meeting, organizers said that they would look into updating the group’s logo and setting up a Web site to communicate needs, ideas, and informative topics to members and Germantown in general.

“One of the goals of the Germantown Alliance is to be a central communication link to the community,” added Hefflefinger. “There is so much happening in Germantown that people are not aware of. We hope the GA will connect the dots and keep people informed. And then those people will spread the word.”

The Germantown Alliance will meet again on Oct. 22, the meeting location is to be determined. Check back with Germantown Pulse for updates on the next meeting.

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