Earlier this year the Shelk Foundation invited a few of our friends to experience life in a rural community.
During the last week of July staff and trustees from Autzen Foundation, Kelley Family Foundation, Knudson Foundation, Lamb Foundation, MRG Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Randall Charitable Trust, Reser Family Foundation, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, and Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington came to Prineville.
They met community leaders, volunteers, and regular folks as they were immersed in a culture and lifestyle very different from an urban area.
They hiked around the Crooked River Wetlands, the city’s new wastewater treatment project that is home to birds, native plants, walking trails, and educational kiosks designed by local students. A conventional, chemical treatment facility would have cost taxpayers $62 million. The wetlands were built for $7 million, including $3 million in grants.
They visited a family farm and learned the difference between boy carrots and girl carrots, and why both cutter bees and honey bees are necessary for pollinating crops. They also caught a glimpse of the long, hot days and hard work put in by every member of the family. They also saw the rewards of three generations spending time together.
They were surprised by the number and diversity of activities and events held at the county fairgrounds, the parks and the library. And how many county residents – nearly everyone – used those community facilities during the year.
The visit was capped at Crook County High School, the only public high school in the county, with a graduation rate that ranks in the top 20 in Oregon. They learned about the variety of activities, clubs, sports, out-of-school programs and alternative teaching methods available to students and families. They talked with principals, teachers and the janitor who each connect with students at a different level. It was apparent the staff knew and cared about every student in the school and was committed to helping each one find success.
What did our visitors take away from their rural experience? In their own words, here are a few comments about their strongest impressions:
- “The careful consideration of deep issues. They talk and think – not about the next new thing – but what will work here. I think that’s due to the deep relationships and good leadership.”
- “Surprised by the sophistication and use of technology. How they knew exactly how much water was needed in the field. And the importance of good leadership leading the way forward.”
- “The relationships, how well everyone worked together. Their willingness to hear both sides and not exactly compromise, but find the best solution for everyone.”
- “The innovation – and courage – to make changes.”
- “The anonymity in a city makes it easy. You can go out and no one knows you. You can’t do that in small communities.”
- “Walking to dinner tonight I passed a couple people we met during the day. We stopped and visited. It was nice.”
So thank you all for coming. It was a great experience for all of us.