READING, PA (February 21, 2020) – One of the many projects Berks County Community Foundation supports is Berks Vital Signs. It’s our effort to provide objective, unbiased information about the state of Berks County. The Vital Signs website features nearly 100 different data points that can be used to assess the well-being of our community. The website looks at the physical and mental health of our residents, the economic health of the community, the availability of arts and culture programming, and much more.
This data is among the information that the Community Foundation uses to identify opportunities to improve the quality of life in the region and to track how we’re doing. For instance, when we saw that residents of our rural communities were far less likely to have attended an arts event than our urban and suburban residents, we created the Rural Arts Grant Program, a multi-year effort to stimulate arts programming in our rural communities.
We know that local nonprofit organizations and even local governments rely on the data as a source for grant applications. We also know that regular citizens use the data just to check on how things are going in the community.
In addition to providing raw data (much of which is generated by an independent contractor used by many community foundations), we try to add context and highlight areas that deserve special attention.
The site is updated four times a year as new data becomes available. While we select what categories of data are put on the site, we don’t edit or alter the data itself.
That means that, sometimes, Berks Vital Signs might paint a less-than-favorable picture of the county. Painting that picture is not a concern for the Community Foundation. Our concern is that the data be accurate. For us, when we see a number that concerns us (such as the rural arts data), we look for ways to spark improvement.
Berks Vital Signs is not designed to be a promotional tool for Berks County, though we think the community is a pretty great place and much of the data supports that idea. Still, our job is to tell the truth and lead the charge for improvement. We love our community, but we’re not the cheerleaders — we’re more like the score keepers.
We’ll continue to provide Berks County with information about how we’re doing and where we can do better. Our commitment is to be a trusted source for local information.
Kevin K. Murphy, President
Berks County Community Foundation