Western Branch group evolves after a year

Published 5:50 pm Monday, May 30, 2016

Western Branch Growing Forward is growing up.

Initially, Kathy Reagan Young started the Western Branch Growing Forward group on Facebook in May 2015 as a way fight back against neighborhood negativity.

With more than 6,100 members today, the Facebook group quickly became a catalyst for change in the Chesapeake community. Members can tap into all sorts of information, from recommendations for local lawn services and restaurants to information on major issues, such as the proposed Western Branch field house and store closures at nearby Chesapeake Square.

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The Facebook group’s overwhelming success — as well as the amount of time she spends on WBGF business — has prompted Young to take extra steps to grow the organization.

She has formed a new company, Hometown Marketing LLC; created a new logo for WBGF; and is designing a website for the organization, www.GrowTheBranch.com. Within the next few days, people can go to the website and sign up to get emails, a WBGF newsletter and text alerts, she said.

The new website will have a business directory broken down by category, such as restaurants and medical, said Young. Although there will be free listings, businesses can pay for premium advertising options that will include links to the businesses’ websites, addresses, pictures, banner ads and feature stories.

For the first time, people can purchase shirts, hats, cups and other items bearing the WBGF logo, Young said.

Hometown Marketing is partnering with Chesapeake Parks, Recreation and Tourism to sponsor Friday night farmers’ markets at the Western Branch Community Center, 4437 Portsmouth Blvd.

The event will include local farmers, crafters, bakeries, live music and food trucks from 5 to 8 p.m. Fridays, beginning July 8.

The event will supplement the city’s existing farmers market in Western Branch, which will be held at the same site on Saturday mornings beginning June 18.

Young said she does not see the two as competitors because she expects they will serve different groups of people.

In the future, she expects WBGF will sponsor a beer or wine festival fundraiser.

“One of most important things I have learned is the importance of propping up the business community,” Young said. “In the past, I don’t think it occurred to a lot of people to think about the importance of supporting local businesses.”