RARE Program Winter Check In

The Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps Program service year is in full swing and the RARE service members are already seeing the fruits of their labor. RARE is an AmeriCorps program administered through the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement (IPRE), and has been working alongside our rural communities since 1994 to improve economic, social, and environmental conditions for these communities. Each RARE cohort features passionate individuals, some old and some new, who serve communities throughout Oregon, such as the four team members the College of Design (DSGN) profiled in the fall. With winter term coming to a close, DSGN checked in to see how their service year is shaping up.

Catch up with Annie, Beny, Angela, and Willow!

Catch up with Annie!

Annie's work is heating up as the RARE service member heads into spring with a couple of exciting projects. Annie created, organized, and helped lead a collaborative event with the Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) to encourage a culture of stewardship for both locals and visitors. The event and participant reactions were incredibly rewarding, as they reinforced the importance of Annie's work.  Individuals were enthralled and engaged during the event, with multiple individuals leaving the experience with "eyes beaming" and a positive impression and outlook towards TKO and its work.

TKO was founded by a group of concerned hikers in 2007, with the organization's work centered on trail maintenance projects and advocacy work to restore proper funding to Oregon's hiking trails. The majority of the trails were built over 80 years ago and have been maintained thanks to the hard work of volunteers. TKO and Annie have plans in the works to add two similar events to the series that will help to further the organization's mission of exploring and supporting regenerative travel experiences and to build long-lasting relationships with the community.

In addition to the public events, Annie has been able to take advantage of the exceptional RARE tourism industry partners to get TKO a seat at the table to collaborate on one of the first digital outdoor recreation mapping projects with Travel Oregon. With the help of Travel Oregon's recent toolkit and another consultant, Annie is kickstarting, curating, and designing a trail map. These maps aim to provide an accessible resource that keeps visitors informed, engaged, and staying longer. 

Last on the docket, Annie is excited to be creating a landscape design for the Port of Bandon.  The city is working on a design for a pedestrian space that will showcase an educational sculpture by a local marine education nonprofit Washed Ashore.  In addition, there is the potential incorporation of an existing aquaculture experiment into the space to educate passersby about declining kelp forests, their ecological importance, and their potential as an agricultural product.

What is one piece of advice you wish you could tell yourself at the beginning of the service year?

"Because this is my second service year, I will look back and give myself at the very beginning of this adventure some advice:  Make sure you get to know the people around you and nurture those relationships.  Find the people who you connect with and who would go to bat for you.  Moving to a new place, especially if you are not accustomed to rural living, can be tumultuous.  It is so important to have those you feel comfortable reaching out to and being open with, even if it is just to a precious few."

Catch up with Beny!

The City of Woodburn has been able to leverage Beny's expertise and energy for multiple projects since the start of the service term. This long list includes getting the word out to local businesses about a city resource fair to showcase the city's business support services, acting as a lead facilitator for the North Marion County Business Service Providers monthly meeting, leading the grand re-opening of the Woodburn Museum and Bungalow Theater, and numerous smaller projects to help the city connect with its community.

For the resource fair, Beny helped take charge of communications with social media campaigns, website development and even handing out flyers. Beny was able to get out and about, visiting with business owners in 5 small towns. Putting rubber to the road enabled Beny to meet many welcoming owners, such as antique shop and fabric shop owners, face-to-face to talk about the resources that would be available with the resource fair. It even afforded Beny the opportunity to speak with Spanish speaking owners and community members.

All the hard work and door-knocking ensured the fair was a smashing success. The number of businesses that showed up seeking support exceeded expectations and many of the businesses successfully signed up for new classes and programs, thanks to the information provided by the fair. 

As the lead facilitator for North Marion County Business Service Providers monthly meetings, a coalition of organizations that provide support to small and large businesses in the region, Beny guides and supports the group on collaborative projects and coordinates speakers from among the coalition to share about their business and its services. The goal is to create a more interconnected economic ecosystem amongst the groups who want to see the communities’ businesses succeed and grow. 

For the grand re-opening of the Woodburn Museum and Bungalow theater, Beny delegated tasks, coordinated promotions and organized any services required to throw a big celebration for the work the city had been rolling out for the last six years. Beny got to roll out the literal red carpet and pitch this remodeled destination as the new heart for Woodburn's downtown core. 

And finally, Beny took on other smaller projects in order to help coworkers focus on larger projects. Some of these small projects include gathering event information for the Explore North Marion Tourism Website, taking the lead on communication when downtown businesses were hosting events in our downtown or having a window painter come decorate the downtown for the holiday season.

What is one piece of advice you wish you could tell yourself at the beginning of the service year?

"Your eagerness to work for the community of Woodburn is great but have some patience because you will have plenty of projects that will be both rewarding and tiring fill up you plate and then some soon enough."

Catch up with Angela!

Finally feeling grounded (no pun intended) with the work being completed at the Oregon Department of Energy, Angela has had the most rewarding experiences helping the RARE cohort and their host sites navigate funding opportunities for an array of renewable development projects. This has included informing cohort members about federal and state funding they may be eligible for and providing them with educational resources like ODOE’s Biennial Energy Report or having the Director of ODOE attend a monthly cohort call. 

In the last couple of weeks, Angela has been supporting the agency by creating an outreach and engagement plan for their new Community Heat Pump Deployment Program. They held the first informational webinar on January 19th and plan to continue outreach and engagement through the deployment of the program while also starting outreach and engagement for the Rental Home Heat Pump Program.

Anglea looks forward to the beautiful eastern Oregon weather and doing more in-person engagement at community events and public meetings over the next couple of months.

What is one piece of advice you wish you could tell yourself at the beginning of the service year?

"I would tell myself two things:

  1. Don’t move to eastern Oregon without a sun shield for your car and a snow shovel!
  2. It is less important in the beginning to know everything about the energy ecosystem and more important to focus on what the community needs are and how to make sure the agency is reaching those communities and hearing their needs."
Catch up with Willow!

Monument, a rural city in Grant County more than three hours away from Willow's location in Burns, OR, was the host of Eastern Oregon Regional Educator Network's first ground-breaking ceremony on the fourth of January. The organization awarded $100,000 to Monument School District to build a 2 bedroom house for a future teacher hire. Willow is immensely proud of this accomplishment which helped galvanize her passion for helping rural communities. In a service term filled with "no"s, long hours asset mapping five counties, and overseeing the creation of a regional career technical education (CTE) construction program, the event and the children reminded Willow why she is passionate about the work.

"I was able to see how excited the kids were and got to hear from them how impactful it would be to have a house available for them to recruit a teacher over the summer," explained Willow. "I made this crazy decision [to take this post] for the 60 smiling kids in front of me and for others like them because I desired to support their access to quality education which starts with housing their educators. I did it for this moment."

The placement has been challenging, with significant barriers that redirect Willow's work but each obstacle comes with new opportunities and partnerships. Willow has been able to learn a great deal about what not to do and believes they have become a better problem sovler because of these unique challenges. This service year has been dedicated to learning and creating a professional network while developing perservence in the face of setbacks.

As the service year progresses, Willow is looking forward to finishing the asset mapping project, furthering the organization's relationships with potential partners and securing funding to help accomplish our goals. Above all, Willow is excited to see how the work with the Eastern Oregon Regional Educator Network positively impacts students in Eastern Oregon by strengthening the schools ability to recruit and retain quality educators.

What is one piece of advice you wish you could tell yourself at the beginning of the service year?

"That it’s okay to not have the answers. The PPPM department prepared me for a lot of things, but some things you can and will only learn by experiencing it in the professional world. One of those things for me is that I don’t have all the skills or knowledge for this position, but I do have the heart and the drive to learn and that’s okay, that’s enough right now."

RARE Winter in Photos

Photograph of three individuals in front of a landscape of hills and water.


Photograph of Beny posing for the Woodburn Museum & Bungalow Theater Grand Re-Opening. Shows an individual posing in front of film and theater items.


Photograph from a meeting in Woodburn.


Photograph of solar panels in front of a landscape of hills


Photograph of Willow at the groundbreaking.


Photograph of Beny in Woodburn with a pumpkin on Beny's head and a cloak draped over shoulders.


Photo of Kaci and Angela


photograph of the children from Willow's groundbreaking.


As this year's RARE cohort goes through their service year, the College of Design will check how Beny, Annie, Angela, and Willow are doing with this year's work. We will celebrate their triumphs, obstacles, and unique story as they strengthen our rural communities with resources and expertise that might not be available to these communities. A rising tide lifts all ships and RARE's work in our rural communities improves the lives of all Oregonians.