Related Rural Blog Posts

  • Making Federal Resources More Accessible for Rural Communities

    Federal agencies often get requests from local governments and organizations—especially those in rural America—to make information about available grants and resources easier to access and understand. The HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communitiesand USDA have just released a publication that does that. Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities is a guide to programs from the four agencies that rural communities can use to promote economic competitiveness, protect healthy environments, and enhance quality of life. It provides key information on funding and technical assistance opportunities as well as examples of how rural communities across the country have put these programs into action to achieve their goals. With this menu of options, local leaders can more easily identify federal resources that support community planning, cost-effective infrastructure, economic development, brownfields revitalization, and other activities that are part of achieving sustainable communities. They can also see program eligibility and matching requirements at a glance.

     The White House Rural Council has heard from many stakeholders that keeping track of federal funding availability, researching program requirements, and completing applications can be a heavy burden for communities, particularly small rural communities with limited staff capacity.

  • Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food - Across the United States

    Today, I hosted a Google+ Hangout with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to highlight efforts to strengthen local and regional food systems across the United States.

    The event was an opportunity to talk about local food with inspiring women from around the country, from Valerie Segrest, of the Muckelshoot Indian Tribe near Seattle, WA, who sees local and traditional foods as a way to preserve her heritage, to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, MD, who has made great strides in building her city’s local food system to increase access to healthy affordable food. You can watch the full video from the hangout below or on YouTube.

    The hangout also marked the launch of the 2.0 version of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. An innovative digital guide and map, the KYF Compass highlights USDA-supported local food projects around the country. The 2.0 version features thousands of local food projects in all 50 states and includes keyword and zip code search features.

  • White House Champions in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness, Let's Move Olympics, Google Hangout on Local Foods

    Champions of Change in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness Panel Discussion

    Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan (middle) moderates a panel of Champions of Change who have made a difference in the way their communities combat youth homelessness, July 12, 2012. (Photo by the White House Office of Public Engagement)

    White House Honors “Champions of Change” in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness

    Last week, The White House Office of Public Engagement honored 13 individuals who have made significant differences in the way their communities combat homelessness among children and youth as Champions of Change.

    The Champions of Change series spotlights everyday heroes who are demonstrating a commitment to improving their own communities, their country, or the lives of their fellow citizens. We are looking for you to nominate someone who is doing extraordinary things to make a difference in your community as a “Champion of Change.”

  • Join a White House Hangout on Local Foods

    In every state, people are connecting directly with their food each time they bite into a local apple, grill a local steak or create a salad with local ingredients. Local food is about the products that farmers and ranchers grow and raise. It’s about the businesses that bring food from farms to our tables, and efforts to connect consumers with producers like farm to school and agritourism. And it’s about the sense of pride behind campaigns like “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” “Appalachian Grown,” or “Idaho Preferred” that let consumers know their food dollar is flowing back into their local economy. Women play a prominent role in developing local and regional food systems that are creating jobs, pulling new people into agriculture, connecting communities, and improving health.

    On Tuesday, July 17th at 3:00pm EDT, Jon Carson, White House Director of Public Engagement, and I will join inspiring women leaders in the field of local foods through a Google+ Hangout to hear their stories and answer your questions. It’s also a chance to see more stories like theirs when we unveil the 2.0 version of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. An innovative digital guide and map, the KYF Compass highlights USDA-supported local food projects around the country. The 2.0 version features thousands of local food projects in all 50 states and includes keyword and zip code search features.

    Will you join us? Here are the details:

  • Faith-Based Group Rebuilds Alabama Church Following 2011 Tornadoes

    Tornadoes and fires hold more in common than being disasters: they can also make good neighbors.

    This is uniquely true in Boligee, AL, a small rural town near the Mississippi border, and Hartville, OH, near Akron. It's a great story of faith communities helping each other -- and it has a beautiful twist at the end.

    The story begins in and around Boligee in 1996, when four African American churches burned to the ground. Though it has never been proven, many suspect the fires were related to racial tension. Volunteers from around the world rebuilt the four churches -- including Little Zion Baptist Church -- with the assistance of Quakers and Mennonites.

    Fast forward to April 27, 2011, when tornadoes tore through central Alabama, killing 139 people and destroying billions of dollars of property, including the Christian Valley Baptist Church in Boligee, home of a small African American congregation.

    Boligee Church, Destroyed

    The Christian Valley Baptist Church in Boligee, AL, a small African American congregation, was destroyed by a tornado in April 2011. (Photo courtesy of David L. Myers)

    ROPE OF HOPE

    The Rev. Tracy Giles, Christian Valley’s pastor, didn’t know what to do. Insurance would cover $165,000, but estimates to rebuild the church exceeded $500,000. Pastor Giles heard about Mennonite Disaster Service and sat down over coffee with one of its coordinators, Jerry Klassen. Pastor Giles told Klassen, “I need a thread of hope.”

    Klassen responded, “I can throw you a rope of hope.”

    Klassen contacted Maple Grove Mennonite Church in Hartville, and soon skilled volunteers from several Hartville churches were making regular treks to Boligee. On Sunday, June 3, 2012, six months after the start of the rebuilding, Christian Valley Baptist Church commemorated its new opening; total cost was $160,000.

    “It was God reaching across the borderline,” said Deacon Willie Cain.

    The Rev. David L. Myers, a Mennonite minister and director of the DHS/FEMA Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, who participated in the dedication ceremony, said it was a mutual opportunity for service. “Christian Valley Baptist cannot be itself without a church to worship in, and Mennonite churches cannot be themselves without a service project.”

    Boligee Church, Rebuilt

    Christian Valley Baptist Church, rebuilt. (Photo courtesy of David Myers)

    And here's the beautiful twist: one of the biggest challenges faced every year by thousands of disaster volunteers is finding housing during their time of service. That wasn't the case for the volunteers rebuilding Happy Valley Baptist Church.

    Remember Little Zion Baptist Church, which was burned and rebuilt in 1996? That same church provided housing for more than 80 volunteers who traveled more than 800 miles from Hartville to Boligee.

    Disasters of all kinds can indeed make good neighbors.

    The Rev. David L. Myers is the Director of the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

     

  • White House Rural Council’s Health IT Initiative Helps Community Colleges Tailor Programs to Workforce Needs

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education Blog

    With a major workforce transition underway in many rural hospitals and health clinics, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted a conference call with staff from nearly 80 rural community colleges recently to discuss federal resources available to expand training for health information technology workers.

    Developing an adequately trained health IT workforce in rural areas is imperative, and new programs are available to provide incentives for eligible health care providers and hospitals to adopt and meaningfully use electronic health records.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the health IT workforce will increase by 20 percent by the year 2016.  A significant part of that growth will come in rural areas, which are served by approximately 2,000 rural hospitals, 3,700 Rural Health Clinics and approximately 3,000 Community and Migrant Health Centers that are either located in or serve rural communities.