OrthoWorx and the Kosciusko Community YMCA are continuing their efforts to make the Warsaw area welcoming for an increasingly diverse workforce.

The YMCA and the OrthoWorx Diversity Committee have scheduled an interfaith panel discussion for that purpose Feb. 20.

Representatives of various faiths from across the region have volunteered to serve as panelists for the event and discuss “what differences the faiths have, and what’s similar,” said Matt Goebel, director of Christian Emphasis for the YMCA.

“It’s a really interesting event. A lot of times we get a lot of the same kinds of open-minded people in the room …. In the future, we’re trying to get more people in the room who aren’t used to these ideas.

Kosciusko County is becoming more multicultural, with a large Latino population and “an amount of Indian people who typically are Hindu, and Jewish residents as well, and now we have some but not as many Islamic believers in town,” he said. “Let’s get some people in there who have some differing opinions and talk about them from a human race perspective.”

The committee and the YMCA held similar events last year and the year before as part of a series focusing on diversity. The upcoming event could be regarded as a follow-up to the first of the series — Keeping the Faith: An Examination of Religions and Their Followers.

Goebel traveled extensively before he married and spent time in regions where the Islamic and Buddhist religions were the predominant faiths. He said he enjoyed learning about them and is saddened to see religious or ethnic differences the focus of polarizing discussions online or in other settings.

The YMCA is an inclusive organization concerned about the health and well-being of the entire community it serves. It “is a lot more than a gym and swim; it wants to be part of moving the needle for the greater good,” he said.

The area’s orthopedics industry is international, and Warsaw, its unofficial global headquarters, has a mayor who is committed to helping it attract fresh, new talent from other countries, Goebel said.

Representatives from OrthoWorx member organizations and other stakeholders volunteer their time with the OrthoWorx Diversity Committee to create and help promote existing diversity programming partly because they want to keep Warsaw the orthopedic capital of the world.

Orthopedics companies in the city are recruiting from around the world and all walks of life, and the committee said in 2017 it started the diversity discussion series to help attract and retain top talent by creating a welcoming and accepting environment.

“The Biocrossroads study that led to our formation noted that as the orthopedic industry cluster has grown and become more global, it needs to attract talent both in greater numbers and from outside our region, state and country,” Brad Bishop, OrthoWorx executive director, said in a recent email on the subject.

The YMCA and members of the committee believe greater awareness of and understanding of other cultures and faiths are important to the kind of inclusive growth the industry’s Warsaw-area workforce will require, he said.

“The Diversity Committee has had a change of leadership on our staff and the committee is now assessing future initiatives, although we will continue our ongoing First Friday events and our work with the YMCA on diversity discussions,” Bishop said.

“OrthoWorx is also involved with diversity efforts being made by other groups in the community. For example, we collaborated with the schools and the Latinos Count organization from Fort Wayne on a program for Warsaw Community Schools last fall,” he said.

“Our area has many different faiths represented and the faith panel is designed to create greater awareness of the different beliefs, traditions and holidays associated with those faiths,” he said of the upcoming panel discussion. “We believe that’s all part of building greater understanding and welcomeness across our community.”

The free diversity series presentations and related activities organized by the committee and the YMCA are designed for people of all ages, and children have been welcome to attend them.

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