AmeriCorps helping rural Oregon
An AmeriCorps program administered by the University of Oregon is beginning its 19th year of service to rural Oregon, buoyed by especially strong support at a time when state resources for similar efforts are limited.
Through Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE), 25 post-college RARE AmeriCorps members are spending eleven months living and working in the state’s smaller towns, assisting officials with projects that improve economic, social, and environmental conditions.
Terra Wilcoxson, who in June earned a master’s degree in architecture from UO, is helping the City of Tillamook implement a master plan for parks. “It will be incredibly helpful for future job opportunities,” she says.
With funding for the $2 million program secure for the next three years, “we can ensure that AmeriCorps members are bringing critical support to rural Oregon,” says Megan Smith, executive director of the UO Community Service Center, which administers the program.
Above: Megan Smith, executive director of the UO Community Service Center, talks with RARE Americorps members at a group meeting before participants deployed across the state.
Three RARE AmeriCorps members are working in Roseburg and others are located from Port Orford to Lakeview to LaGrande. Projects for RARE participants include downtown redevelopment programs, local and regional food systems, tourism-based economic development, and renewable-energy initiatives. A Google map shows where this year’s AmeriCorps members are placed throughout Oregon and summarizes each of their duties.
An AmeriCorps grant of $200,000 annually leverages the additional support necessary for the program. Key partners include Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Main Street program, and Oregon Volunteers!
Under the program, qualified college graduates selected as RARE AmeriCorps members assist communities and agencies in developing plans that sustain natural resources and improve rural economic conditions. In return, the participants gain community building and leadership skills. Statistically, in the past four years:
• RARE AmeriCorps members recruited 6,310 community members to participate in their projects.
• The community members served more 20,633 volunteer hours.
• RARE AmeriCorps members produced 452 deliverables for their communities.
• RARE AmeriCorps members trained 3,124 community members on a variety of skills, from grant writing to GIS to web development.
• Through the efforts of the RARE AmeriCorps members, 66 plans were developed and more than $10 million in grants were written by AmeriCorps members. Of this, $6.6 million were funded and $1.26 million are pending.
Khristina Fulkerson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Humboldt State University, is working with the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay on projects to improve the local and regional economy.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to do this great work with a level of professionalism and independence that I wouldn’t expect to find easily elsewhere,” she says.
Above: Terra Wilcoxson, who in June earned a master’s degree in architecture from the university, is helping the City of Tillamook implement a master plan for parks. “It will be incredibly helpful for future job opportunities,” she says.
Story by Matt Cooper and Karen Johnson