This past week, I found through some sources (which I name as I go along) some very inspiring stories about the resiliency of rural and small town America during this time of our history. They moved me and illustrated the growing truth (and perhaps reminded us of an old truth) that the rural and small town environment can, does, and still does, take care of one another in humanizing and exciting ways.
The first story is of my own county.
Last week my friend Grace Housholder, who is a member of our local paper’s, The News Sun, editorial board, posted a link on Facebook from The Christian Science Monitor about volunteer efforts here in Noble County in light of our economic situation with an unemployment rate of nearly 18%. (and just short of neighboring Elkhart County that leads the nation in unemployment).
The stories told in the article reveal a community that has risen up to care. Some of the names in the article are familiar ones to me (one is a member of my congregation) and the grade school mentioned is where my wife works and my kids have been educated. Our county is a resilient county with many caring people, something that rural residents have known all along, and I think that our nation is going to be reminded of in the days and weeks ahead. You can find the article here: http://features.csmonitor.com/economyrebuild/2009/03/16/amid-18-percent-unemployment-indiana-county-finds-unity/
(The Community Kitchen mentioned in the article begins today here in Kendallville.)
A “rising Sun” The Sopris Sun that is… A fellow “twitterer,” Jack Schultz (@jackschultz) is the source for the second story that moved me. It is a LA Times story about a small Colorado community, Carbondale, whose only local paper, The Carbondale Valley Journal, shut down and left its community and readership without its source of vital information.
As a result, the original owner and founder of the paper, Rebecca Young, sent out an e-mail to asking if anyone was upset by the closure. They were.
So, a group of volunteers, led by Young, organized and started the The Sopris Sun, a free weekly paper that is “named after a snow-capped peak towering over the Roaring Fork Valley.” The first issue was distributed on February 12, 2009 with a run of 3,000 copies. While there is a paid editor and reporter on staff, several volunteers help with ad sales and the paper’s production.
What caught my eye (and my heart) was the statement of Colin Laird, a board member and the head of the local community Development Corporation, “Every town should have a park, a library and a newspaper.”
With all of the talk (and good talk) of volunteerism by President Obama and his administration, here is, in my opinion, true volunteerism at its finest. You can read the story at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-volunteer-newspaper23-2009mar23,0,699154.story
The rural community, a new incubator for entrepreneurship?
The third and final story comes from that wonderful tool, Google Alert, which I learned about from another twitterer, Pastor Bob aka @RuralRealities on twitter. I am able to receive e-mails at a frequency that I select (once a day) about various subjects that are of interest to me. One is “rural development.”
In today’s in-box there was a link to an article from the Omaha World-Herald. The article’s title really says it all. “Researcher sees increase in rural self-employment.”
The researcher is Randy Cantrell, a development specialist for NU Rural Initiative. He believes that self-employment accounts for “18 to 30 percent of jobs and virtually all job growth” in rural counties. He wants to be sure and will be factoring in self-employment in a new survey to be sent to rural areas.
As I read the article, I was reminded of the resourcefulness of people who can re-invent themselves in a new line of work no matter where they live. I am hoping that this kind of economic growth will take place in my county so that employment stability can take place. You can read the article here: http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=2798&u_sid=10592959
Again, I am very impressed by the strength of character and compassion that I read (and see) in these various rural and small town communities.