Study Examines Discovery Center

POCOMOKE — A recent assessment by Salisbury University’s Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) praised the Delmarva Discovery Center (DDC) in Pocomoke for the educational service it provides to the community. However, BEACON also highlighted some areas where the center should look to evolve, especially in regards to continued funding.

“While it is clear that DDC is an outstanding educational and cultural asset in our community, it is also clear that the organization is experiencing some growing pains,” said Dr. Memo Diriker, director of Beacon. “We believe that the current business model for the DDC will have to be updated so that it can better serve the public and fulfill its mission.”

The report from BEACON found that the DDC struggles most when it comes to locating enough funding and resources to operate and expand. Diriker and his team made a slew of recommendations aimed at addressing these resource shortages. They advised DDC leadership to re-examine how they look at everyday management and the duties of employees, both volunteer and paid. BEACON also recommended that the DDC put more emphasis on volunteer recruitment and retention and fundraising, since community involvement and donations of both time and money are crucial for an organization like the center.

Finally, the DDC was tasked with making its facility and standard operating procedures more efficient while thinking of new ways to market the center.

Worcester County Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw, who represents Pocomoke, said that he was impressed with the BEACON study, though he wished it had happened sooner.

“It would have been very advantageous had it been done earlier,” he said.

But Lockfaw added that “you learn as you go.” He agreed with the recommendations made by Diriker’s group and said he hopes the center will be quick to make changes.

“They are going to have to change their management style,” said Lockfaw. “There have got to be adjustments made there.”

One of the big alterations that he believes is needed is a dedicated grant seeker for the DDC.

“Most museums are funded through grants, endowments, and things of that sort,” he explained.

Such a position would be “totally separate” from the day-to-day operations of the DDC, noted Lockfaw, and would concentrate solely on bringing in federal, state or local funding through the many grants available for institutions like the center, which is self-classified as a “living museum” that focuses on the ecology and human history of the Pocomoke River and Delmarva.

Whatever the DDC needs to do to flourish, Lockfaw said that it would have his and most likely the entire county commission’s support.

“I think that it’s a great resource to draw folks to Pocomoke,” he said.

Along with the nearby Sturgis One Room School House, the historic Mar-Va Theatre, and the Costen House, Lockfaw credited the DDC with preserving the area’s natural and social history and presenting it in tours and exhibits in a way that is easy to appreciate for both visitors and locals. He added that the strength of Pocomoke’s historic resources “goes hand-in-hand” with the success of the community.

Following the recommendations, BEACON offered to work with the DDC Board of Directors to put some of the suggestions into action. They will collectively be working on developing a three- to five-year strategic plan.