Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) is an AmeriCorps program administered through the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement (formerly known as the Community Service Center). RARE AmeriCorps has been supported over the years by grants from the Corporation for National & Community Service (AmeriCorps), The Ford Family Foundation, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Food Bank, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and other agencies. In addition, each participating community provides $23,500 to help place, train, and support a full-time RARE AmeriCorps member.
AmeriCorps has four components: getting things done, strengthening communities, encouraging responsibility and expanding opportunity. AmeriCorps provides service opportunities to address America’s educational, public safety, human, and environmental needs. By achieving demonstrable results in meeting such needs, AmeriCorps members will secure a smarter, safer, and healthier future for the Americans they touch.
Every AmeriCorps program sets ambitious but attainable objectives for getting things done, and in the end should be able to demonstrate the degree to which those objectives have been met. The work of AmeriCorps programs varies as much as America’s needs do, including immunizing infants, tutoring teenagers, keeping schools safe, restoring natural resources, building houses for the homeless, and securing more independent lives for the elderly. Whatever the goal, all these efforts will get things done.
AmeriCorps strengthens the spirit of citizenship. Through service, discussion of service, and education about service, AmeriCorps enables members to see themselves as problem-solvers, not problems; to become leaders, not just followers; and to act on their responsibilities, in addition to their rights. While strengthening their desire to serve, AmeriCorps gives members the tools to fulfill their responsibilities throughout their lives, including communication and conflict resolution skills and an understanding of their communities.
RARE AmeriCorps members have a variety of backgrounds and bring to their communities a wide range of experiences. In addition, members receive training in areas such as citizen involvement, outreach and communication, land-use planning, grant writing, project management, and necessary computer skills. During the term of service, RARE AmeriCorps members receive a $1,600 monthly living stipend, health care benefits, and childcare if eligible. At the end of the term, eligible members receive an education award of $5,815 that can be used for future educational expenses or to pay back existing eligible student loans.
Communities that complete an application for assistance and are able to provide a $23,500 cash match will be considered as possible host communities. RARE AmeriCorps host communities receive the following:
- A full-time RARE AmeriCorps member who will provide community service for 11 months (1,700 hours);
- Support services from a team of six planning/policy analysts;
- Regular community site visits and evaluation by RARE AmeriCorps staff.
RARE AmeriCorps projects typically fall into four broad categories:
- Coordinating the development of a downtown master plan
- Facilitating the development of a county-wide Geographic Information System
Community and Economic Development
- Implementing the provision of community health care services
- Facilitating the coordination of a ‘green business’ campaign
- Assisting rural entrepreneurs in the development of business plans
- Completing economic development plans for municipalities
Natural Resource Planning
- Coordinating a watershed assessment
- Designing a citizen involvement program for a watershed council
Community Food Security/Food Systems
- Creation of community food assessments
- Enhancement of local farmers’ markets and food related business activities