Dear RARE Alumni,
I often say that it’s through the challenges we face in life that we come to grow as individuals. It’s all part of the process when serving rural with the RARE AmeriCorps Program; we challenge ourselves through service and are transformed for the better as result. With the arrival of COVID-19 in Oregon nearly two months ago, well, I can’t help but keep coming back to this mantra. Yes, it’s true, we are being challenged enormously as individuals and as a nation, but we will get through this. And in doing so, we will become stronger, united, and more resilient then ever before.
How can one remain so hopeful during times like this? Well, just look around you, and it doesn’t take long to see an array of positive action taking place. Humans are taking immense measures to help each other during times of such immense adversity. It’s a beautiful thing, and something I am reminded of on a daily basis. Just look at this year’s members alone, all of whom have risen to the occasion, stepped in, and stepped up to provide much needed capacity to rural Oregon right now. Whether it’s helping pack emergency food boxes at Columbia Gorge Food Bank or helping small business owners in Reedsport access emergency funding, I have seen nothing but the best from this year’s cohort.
Though adversity comes opportunity, which is another mantra that I keep coming back to. Here at the RARE AmeriCorps Program we are seeing an array of opportunities arising that will absolutely shape the future of our service to rural Oregon. As odd as this might sound, I am excited about what the future has in store for the RARE AmeriCorps Program and for National Service as a whole. Some of you might have read the recent piece by New York Times Opinion Columnist, David Brooks, that speaks beautifully to the need for service in county. Or maybe you caught the article written by William Burns in the Atlantic about the Nation’s need for a rebirth of public service. Such press combined with legislation like the Undertaking National Initiatives to Tackle Epidemic Act or the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act, speaks to the immense opportunity that we have in our future.
Rural Oregon needs us, possibly more than ever before. When COVID-19 hit, the team and I quickly realized the RARE AmeriCorps Program has a critical role play in long-term rural economic recovery game. With that, I am pleased to let you all know that we have a new initiative in place with The Ford Family Foundation that will result in the placement of RARE AmeriCorps Members with an array of rural Economic Development Districts during the 2020-21 service year. Using a proscribed yet place-based approach developed by staff and faculty within the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement, the RARE AmeriCorps Program will provide both the capacity and expertise needed to “get things done” for rural Oregon in the coming years.
I sure hope this letter gives you a touch of hope and inspiration as we work through these trying times. Let this group of amazing individuals not forget the power of community, even if that community is held within a digital format. This community, RARE Family, has played a key roll in getting me through some of my toughest times, so if you find yourself feeling isolated, hopeless, flustered… just don’t forget about all the people within this network that care about you!
Keep your head up and your hands clean!!
Titus Tomlinson, Years 13 & 16
RARE Program Director