GREENFIELD — Refresh. Rebrand. Renew.
Whatever you choose to call it, the local community calendar known as Hello Hancock underwent a transformation a year ago and has been turning heads ever since.
The revamped website, which was first created in 2007, is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary. It launched in March 2019, after a steering committee spent the previous year determining the best way to upgrade the original to better serve the community.
“We’ve had a really good response to it,” said Katie Ottinger, Community Investment & Grants Officer for the Hancock County Community Foundation.
Referencing the website’s mission, Ottinger said the hope for Hello Hancock is to serve as the go-to calendar for Hancock County. “Our vision is for it to connect members of the community, one event at a time,” she said.
The public can click through the online calendar at hellohancock.com to see what community events are happening, any day of the year.
The website’s main purpose, however, is to serve as a scheduling tool for event organizers who wish to avoid planning events at the same time as other events in the county.
“You can’t always adjust when you want to have your event, but it will give you an idea of what other activities are going on that same day, so you might be able to adjust the time or at least be aware of a competing event that may draw people away from yours,” said Sally Parsons, director of Regreening Greenfield, a tree-focused nonprofit.
When publicizing Regreening’s annual Arbor Day seedling giveaway, Parsons recently entered the April event into the Hello Hancock website to inform the community of the details.
“I think it’s a great service,” said Parsons, who frequently clicks through the calendar to find out what’s happening in Hancock County. “It’s nice to know what’s going on in town. Without a community calendar you might miss things you would otherwise enjoy going to,” she said.
Hello Hancock was the brainchild of Nancy King, the late community activist who dreamed of creating a community calendar to help fellow event planners with scheduling.
King would sometimes get frustrated when multiple community events were planned on the same date and time, so she shared her community calendar idea with Greg Cross, of Cross Creative Marketing, and together they launched Hello Hancock in 2007.
Despite an initial positive reception, use of the calendar dwindled over time as the software became increasingly outdated.
The Greenfield Sertoma Club got involved in 2016, as Sertoma member Dave Berard volunteered to monitor calendar content, but the aging software started to make the calendar obsolete.
The community foundation stepped in the following year in an effort to bring the once-popular calendar back to life, said Ottinger, establishing a committee to help refresh and rebuild the site.
Websites become outdated pretty quickly as technology changes, said Ottinger, and foundation leaders believed the county’s nonprofits could benefit by transforming the dated community calendar into a more robust, modernized scheduling tool.
A steering team of stakeholders including the county library, local city and town leaders, Main Street organizations, churches and chambers of commerce was assembled to address concerns and brainstorm solutions for the calendar, meeting regularly for more than a year.
Ottinger credits the team for redesigning the online calendar to make it more functional and visually appealing. The team revamped Hello Hancock’s logo and vision, and worked with Cross Creative Marketing to make the website modern and mobile-friendly.
“I think the software is an astonishing improvement over the previous version,” said Parsons, who credits the calendar as being user-friendly.
In revamping the website, the steering team also narrowed its focus to community events and limited those who could post to organizers like nonprofits, service groups and schools. Individuals were no longer allowed to enter personal events like yard sales, which were overshadowing community events and were not in line with the spirit of what the calendar was intended to be, said Ottinger.
“The fact there were no strict content guidelines was a detriment to the previous version, so we wanted to fix that,” she said.
To help familiarize users with the new website the community foundation hosted workshops in late 2018 and early 2019 to train community leaders, and distributed mouse pads printed with instructions for using the site.
Many users, like Jill Ebbert, director of the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, quickly praised the updated website’s enhanced ease of use.
The calendar was promoted publicly last March in correlation with Hancock County’s 191st birthday.
Since then, a growing number of nonprofit leaders and other event planners have been utilizing the website. “Now that we’ve got a year under our belt, this year I think we’re going to be more proactive about promoting it to the community-at-large as a tool they can use to see what’s going on around the community on any given day,” said Ottinger.