By Kelley Atherton
Current and future community leaders in Del Norte and Curry counties will get a little boost from the Ford Family Foundation.
Starting later this month, the Roseburg, Ore.-based foundation's Institute for Community Building will offer its Leadership Program through Action Del Norte.
The program is a four-month series of leadership development classes and additional training in building effective organizations and community collaborations. It aims to give local residents the tools to be leaders despite the limitations of a rural area.
"This is what Del Norte County is talking about," said Reweti Wiki, who is coordinating Action Del Norte efforts. "Enough is enough; we need to re-
The program is paid for by the foundation and is free to participants.
Wiki said that the Ford Family Foundation typically focuses on rural communities in Oregon and Siskiyou County. However, the Wild Rivers Community Foundation brought Del Norte to the attention of the foundation.
"They've really gone out on a limb," Wiki said. "It just happened."
The foundation was intrigued by Del Norte, Wiki said, because the community is not only willing to re-create itself, but also because it's part of a region that extends into Oregon.
"They recognize that social and economic issues don't stop at the border," he said.
Classes will be in Smith River for one weekend a month starting Sept. 19 until the end of the year, with one trip to a conference in Eugene, Ore. Classes for this year are already full, but there will be room for new participants in the next cycle, Wiki said, adding the program will be offered for five years.
While the word "class" might invoke images of sitting in a classroom, textbook in hand, listening to a teacher lecture, the sessions are more like a workshop, Wiki said. The whole point is for community members to engage in conversations.
After "graduating," participants can attend training sessions in effective organizations and/or community collaborations. Then the next round of leadership classes begin with new students.
The foundation is also donating $5,000 for participants to organize a small-scale project, Wiki said. The project should only take about 20-50 hours outside of class time.
The leadership program is nationally recognized and could increase interest in the region.
A separate organization, The Ford Foundation, is also considering possible grants for Del Norte County.
The intent of the leadership program is not to incite economic development, a phrase commonly heard around here. A community has to be healthy before it can grow and prosper.
"You have to have community development to have economic development," Wiki said. "No matter how big the infrastructure, if the community is not feeling good, it's harder to do economic development."
For more information, visit www.tfff.org.