Going to the Cheesecake Factory

Katelynn Essig RARE AmeriCorps Resource Assistance for Rural Environments

Starting a new RARE AmeriCorps position in a new community is like going to the Cheesecake Factory for the first time. You open those big doors, walk in with confidence, and boom! – Nobody notices you. –  Everyone is running AROUND you, with little regard of how overwhelmed you suddenly feel.

You are shown to a booth with hundreds of pages of information to read and study before you even have time to catch your breath. What you find is an enticing list of familiar, yet decadent opportunities to make this a great adventure. Yes, there are a million things to read and learn but you slightly remember these dishes from other restaurants. And as you absorb all of the information, your confidence grows because things start to relate; dots are connecting; you can handle this menu.

You’re given your projects and take off in confidence because you have found your “À la mode”. You start working on your projects, one of which actually has you getting more people involved in this community. But then you start to notice a little boredom catching fire. The hustle and bustle swirling around you doesn’t seem so overwhelming anymore and you find yourself wanting to be a part of it. So, what do you do? You get involved with other co-workers and organizations to see what they have on their plate. You spot something that looks good; a visioning session for your downtown. You can handle that.  You realize you are leading yourself through this adventure. But you’ve got it. Maybe at first you felt like a pain for everyone else but they keep feeding you with new things to do and you now know you play an important role in this jumbled mess of a well-functioning restaurant.

Eventually you catch stride. You even decide to order a big piece of cheesecake for dessert because biting off something more than you can handle doesn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. You will finish that piece of cheesecake and look back on the time you’ve spent here up to this point. You will definitely be coming back because yea it’s overwhelming and challenging in every aspect, but what fun is a RARE experience if it’s easy getting through?


Katelynn Essig RARE AmeriCorps Resource Assistance for Rural Environments Oregon CityAbout the Author: After earning her master’s degree in Sustainable Development and Policy from the University of Illinois, Katelynn Essig moved from the great plains of Springfield, IL to Oregon City, OR where she is serving as the Economic Development Assistant in the RARE AmeriCorps Program.  Katelynn’s interests include building local economies, marketing, and website design. In her free time, you will find Katelynn exploring her new community and perusing the mountainside, something that is brand new to this Midwestern girl. 

The People We Meet Along The Way…

RARE Resource Assistance for Rural Environments AmeriCorps Program Community Service Center CSC
Thinking about the impact the RARE AmeriCorps Program has had in communities we have partnered with and the lives of those who have served with us puts things into perspective, gives me worth, and sure does make me feel good about working for an organization that DOES make a difference.  But let me tell you what is even more rewarding – developing relationships with the people we meet along the way.

Whether talking about land-use planning, downtown development, food systems or any other line of work our members take on in the field, in the end, it always comes back to the people.  Without building strong relationships in the communities we serve, the work our members take on would be without base and ultimately fruitless.  Instead, we build relationships, making sure the right people are involved who can continue to drive the ship after a member’s term of service has ended.

Then we have each cohort, and the life-long friendships that are created on an annual basis.  There is something about putting everything on the line that facilitates development of such friendships.  Let’s face it, picking up and leaving everything you know to serve with the RARE AmeriCorps Program sure does put one in a vulnerable situation.  And an exciting one, at that.  Having 24+ individuals who are going through the same, but different, life experiences brings the group together.  This, the shared experiences and resulting friendships, is one of the reasons I hold this Program so dear to my heart.

As you can see, the work we do here at the RARE AmeriCorps Program depends on relationships we build and ultimately the network we have created and continue to build upon.  Ultimately, it is the people we have worked with, members, supervisors and community members alike, who have made the RARE AmeriCorps Program what it is today.  With over 450 alumni and countless communities served, you better bet that we have created a network.  Heck, we have created a family… RARE Family.

With recruitment season upon us, we are currently looking for motivated and enthusiastic individuals who are passionate about community development to grow the RARE Family.  If you find yourself interested in a true life changing experience; one that will push you to grow, both personally and professionally, you should consider serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program.  For more information about our application process visit our website or give me a call at 541-346-2879.  Because in the end, I am always looking to meet new people along the way!

 RARE AmeriCorps Application 2015-2016


Titus Tomlinson RARE Resource Assistance for Rural Environments AmeriCorps Program Community Service Center CSCAbout the Author: Titus Tomlinson is the Program Coordinator at RARE AmeriCorps Program. He served as a RARE AmeriCorps Participant in 2006 and 2009.  Titus earned a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon between his stints as a RARE Participant.  During his free time he enjoys basking in the glory of Oregon via mountain bike, rope or boat.