Last year volunteers from twenty-two rural Washington communities completed the 18-month Horizons leadership-training program to help them reduce poverty in their communities. Now, 15 more communities have embarked on the process.
Horizons is all about helping small rural communities help themselves combat poverty by recruiting community volunteers and providing them with leadership and organizational training.
In early December volunteers from 22 Washington communities that completed the process in June gathered in Spokane to share and compare experiences and to welcome volunteers from 15 more communities selected to join the Horizons program.
To qualify, communities must have a population of 5,000 or fewer people, a poverty rate of at least 10 percent, and committed volunteers willing to participate in the training and follow up community efforts.
The Horizons program is an eight-state project of the nonprofit Northwest Area Foundation of St. Paul, Minn. and administered in Washington State by WSU Extension. A key element is the training program LeadershipPlenty that was developed and is taught by trainers from the Pew Partnership.
During introductory comments at the Spokane conference WSU Extension Horizons program director Doreen Hauser-Lindstrom told volunteers about to undergo the training, “the trainers are going to work you very hard, and your absolutely going to love it.”
A highlight of the conference was a lunchtime talk by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers who told the community volunteers, “Horizons is a program that can really work to improve local economies because it motivates and provides the skills for community members to help themselves.”
Volunteers in Horizons communities share the belief that a major value of the program is that it spurs community communication, planning, and a pooling of resources toward common goals for reducing poverty and advancing local economies.
For the community volunteers who have completed the program the work continues. They are working to keep their communities motivated and to see that the plans and projects identified through the process are accomplished.
Horizons communities have undertaken community clean-up programs, the establishment of youth and community centers, and the launch of local farmers markets to name a few of the efforts. They document their process, plans, and achievements on community blogs complete with photos and video.
The new Horizons communities are Benton City, Beverly, Big River Tribal Community, Deer Park, Grand Coulee, Grand Mound/Rochester, Lyle, Onalaska, Othello West, Rockford, Rosalia, Tum Tum, Valey, Willpinit and Wishram.
To learn more about Horizons and the communities both past and present that are a part of it, and to view the community blogs, visit http://horizons.wsu.edu.