Tag: Stories from the Field: A RARE AmeriCorps Perspective

The Spirit of Rural

By Jasmine Jordan

River communities have a special magic to them. St. Helens, which lies along the Columbia River, especially has an idyllic, calming and enchanting atmosphere. Now that I have lived in St. Helens for several months, it’s easy to see the important role played by the Columbia in the community. St. Helens captures the spirit of rural Oregon and its special relationship with the environment.

The residents of St. Helens love their forest and the surrounding mountains that contain them. And they love the water that feeds the trees, constantly falling from the sky, recycling off the mountains and back into the river. The river brings celebration of community, of family, and of water and everything that’s made out of it. Oregonians especially love beer.

The St. Helens Economic Development Corporation, otherwise known as SHEDCO, understands this love. SHEDCO is the downtown association that I was brought in to work with. Their general mission is to support the economic vitality of St. Helens by supporting the local small business owners. So this past year on the nationally celebrated Small Business Saturday in November, SHEDCO decided to host an event that helped drive customers to the local businesses by capturing on the love of locally produced beer and wine.

In preparation for the Shop and Sample event, SHEDCO asked local businesses to host stations in their shops. Each station sampled one regionally produced beverage and one locally produced snack item to customers that had purchased tickets to the event. Shop and Sample was a huge success. Local businesses were able to bring unique foot traffic into their stores and many local food producers that do not have a store front were able to highlight their products for free in someone else’s store for a day. Oh, and of course, all the event attendees left happy, full, and with a positive opinion of what our community is capable of.

Shop and Sample wasn’t just SHEDCO. It took a lot of collaboration with our local partners. Several wineries and groceries donated cases of beer and wine, local shops opened their doors and displayed Small Business Saturday marketing materials in their windows, other local organizations helped get out the word about the event, and we couldn’t have gotten very far without the locals’ support.

In St. Helens and all across Oregon, locals that love their community seems to have an uncanny ability to pull together and uplift their communities no matter how small. I can’t really explain this devotion, besides to say, maybe there’s something magically about the water.

A little bit about Jasmine Jordan:

  • B.A. in Political Science and International Studies along with a minor in International Business – University of Dayton
  • People may be surprised when they learn that my love for the natural world and commitment to international communities began when I was twelve in Australia. People to People, a NGO started by Eisenhower, invited me to join a trip through Australia as a student ambassador. I took the year o my volleyball team to spend me raising the money for the trip. At the me, I had no idea that this decision would lead me to discover my life passion.
  • Working in a rural village in Burkina Faso with the Peace Corps has been my most significant accomplishment. During my service, I assisted a subsistence farmers’ association improve their food security by implementing a number of ecological‐friendly techniques.

Does community development work interest you?  Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon?  Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: https://rare.uoregon.edu/

The Power of Conversation

By Emily Gluckin

If there is one thing that my RARE position has taught me, it is the power of simply talking to people. All of the progress I have made thus far is all thanks to conversations and tapping into my network.

I spent the first two months of my service with the Polk County Tourism Alliance reaching out and meeting with as many different players in the county’s tourism landscape as possible: city staff, business owners, chamber directors, local citizens, local groups, etc. The purpose of these conversations was for me to learn what the current state of tourism is, and what the challenges and opportunities are for each stakeholder. I also traveled to different places in the county to experience the destinations and assets that the county has to offer (sounds rough, but somebody’s got to do it!). This was crucial in helping me learn what I was entering into and giving me a holistic view of the communities that I am working with. Because tourism touches so many different groups in Polk County, it has been really interesting learning about the topic from a variety of angles. Now backed with a better knowledge of what is going on and what kinds of questions to ask, these conversations have become productive and have created some momentum.

The magical thing about simply talking with people is that great connections usually come out of it, especially in a tight-knit network like Polk County. Talking with one of the steering committee members about her involvement in a camera club resulted in a donation of hundreds of beautiful high-resolution photographs of the county from a local photographer. A meeting with the county’s extension office encouraged them to include Polk County in their survey of agritourism operators. A member of an action team offered her connection to bloggers in the area for publicity. These are just a few examples of successes that have come out of conversations. This is the beauty of an effort that encompasses a wide range of people; everyone has unique skills and connections to offer that will ultimately further the goals of the group as a whole.

This process has also taught me to be flexible. While I keep certain tasks and goals in mind, I recognize that these conversations and opportunities that arise will mean that my work plan may be ever shifting. I have also learned that sometimes the answer lies right in front of you, all you have to do is ask around.

As an extrovert, I love talking to anyone who will listen, meeting new people, and seeing how we could work together going forward. Luckily, the people of Polk County have been more than willing to share their stories and listen to mine. This community is full of committed people, strong connections, and rich opportunities, and we are our own greatest resource.

A bit about Emily Gluckin:

  • B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability Studies and a minor in Green Building and Community Design – University of Vermont
  • People may be surprised when they learn that between ages 10 and 14 I lived in Zurich, Switzerland. I was immersed in a culture that was a big contrast to my life in a small town in suburban Connecticut. I learned German, how to navigate public transportation, how to make quick friends in an International school, and how to be a citizen of the world. It created a personal drive to continue learning about and exploring new places. I believe I would be a completely different person without that experience.
  • My most significant accomplishment that I am proud of is the complete on of a large-scale public art installation that I was the project manager of during my previous AmeriCorps service in Montana. The project, known as the Helena Bike Tower, had been in the works for several years before I took the position, and a er 11 months of blood, sweat, and tears (literally)

Does community development work interest you?  Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon?  Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: https://rare.uoregon.edu/