SPOKANE, Wash. — Twenty-three rural communities in Washington state have been selected to participate in a community education and training program to provide local residents with tools to improve the local economy and reduce poverty.
The communities were chosen to participate in the Horizons Project, administered by Washington State University Extension and funded by a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation in St. Paul, Minn. The project targets communities of fewer than 5,000 residents, and that have declining populations and poverty rates of at least 10 percent.
The following communities were selected after community volunteers attended informational meetings last month and expressed interest in participating:
Adams County: Ritzville
Cowlitz County: Castle Rock
Ferry County: Republic
Grant County: Mattawa, North Moses Lake, Royal City, Warden
Klickitat County: Glenwood, Goldendale, Klickitat, Trout Lake, White Salmon/Bingen
Lewis County: Mossy Rock, Pe Ell
Lincoln County: Sprague
Skamania County: Stevenson
Stevens County: Chewelah, Colville, Columbia School District (Cedonia, Fruitland, Gifford, Hunters), Kettle Falls/Marcus, Northport, Springdale
Wahkiakum County: Cathlamet
Poverty rates in those communities range from 13 to nearly 40 percent.
The goal of the Horizons Project is to help volunteering community members develop skills, tools and practical strategies to address local economic and social issues.
During the two-year program WSU County Extension offices and the WSU Horizons Project staff will work with each community to deliver training and skill building through leadership training, study circles, community-based action planning and mobilization for poverty reduction. The program will get underway this month with a series of community “study circles.”
“There are people in each of these communities willing to put time and effort into improving their communities if they can get the skills and tools,” said WSU Extension Horizons Project Coordinator Doreen Hauser-Lindstrom. “The Horizons Project will give them the skills and tools they need to succeed. We encourage people from all walks of life and of all ages, from young people to seniors, to get involved.”
In 2003, three Okanogan Valley communities participated in a pilot Horizons Project program. They report that the program has helped mobilize their communities with people working together, new leaders emerging and new jobs being created.
“These communities report continued momentum and positive changes thanks to the skills they’ve gained even though the program is completed,” Hauser-Lindstrom said. “We’ve learned from their experience and thanks to the foundation we’re now able to take the program to many more communities statewide.”
The Horizons Project was developed and is funded by the Northwest Area Foundation based in St. Paul, Minn. NWAF’s mission is to fight poverty in rural communities in eight northern states. The foundation currently is funding the Horizons Project to aid a total of 170 communities in seven northern states.