From our country’s beginning, rural communities have been one of the most important driving forces of the American economy. They provided good paying jobs and a comfortable lifestyle that allowed families to grow and thrive. Over the last few decades, populations of rural communities have faced economic pressures (rapid growth or loss of industry) that have threatened their cultural identity and way of life. These communities have been and continue to navigate this changing environment. It’s within this context that exists the opportunity for storytelling and to celebrate the journey, the challenges, and the progress that has been made in these rural towns.
Many of these communities have seen people leave for a variety of reasons, but those who leave still feel a strong connection to their hometown. They value and understand their rural hometown’s assets and unique qualities and hope for a brighter tomorrow for their family and friends at home. With so many holding these views, an opportunity exists to provide them a chance to reconnect. This is where Rural Homecoming comes in.
Rural Homecoming is a time to reaffirm and strengthen connections for those living away from rural hometowns, and also to connect young people into the rural communities they call home, to ensure that they stay connected whether they choose to stay or leave to pursue other opportunities. By participating, you will give your community an opportunity to open its doors and host a gathering or event that celebrates what makes it special. As you highlight the innovation and opportunity happening at a local level, your community members will have a chance to amplify their voice and experience; and those reconnecting with home will have a chance to give back.
Organizing a Rural Homecoming event is an investment in your community. It is free to participate, and you can choose how you want to engage. The goal is to reconnect people who have left or connect young residents to what is happening in your community and get them engaged with a local nonprofit, business, or other opportunity. It allows your community to tell your own story, rather than it being told for you. That story is valuable locally and will also be amplified on a national level through Rural Homecoming’s organizing partners who want to share uplifting stories about rural America and rural innovation across the country.
When: Rural Homecoming will take place nationally October 18-20, however your community can plan an event at any time during the year and participate in national social media engagement throughout the year. If your town has programs or events already built into the fabric of the community, Rural Homecoming wants to hear about those events, whether they happen during this weekend in October or anytime throughout the year.
Who: Community leaders will organize a Rural Homecoming event to engage their community in whichever way they choose. Such leaders could be a mayor or local elected official, a leader of a community college or economic development director, a business owner or entrepreneur, members of downtown business associations or chambers of commerce, or any volunteer or local leader that wants to help activate their community in a unique way.
How: As a participating community, you will create your own Rural Homecoming event or engagement using tools we’ve developed that offer event ideas, communications templates, and ways to track your engagement. How your community participates is up to you. It could be an event or weekend of events, or it could simply be about telling your story. Each community participates in whatever capacity makes sense for them.
The Program Organizers
Rural Homecoming was created by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and the LOR Foundation
RCAP is a network of non-profit partners, focused on building capacity in rural and tribal communities across the country in work around access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal, economic development and disaster recovery. RCAP works in every state across the country, including Puerto Rico and USVI. Our mission is to help rural and tribal communities build capacity that leads to long-term sustainability based on the needs of each community. Not only do we provide technical assistance to communities, we also provide policy and advocacy to represent those communities and their needs and try to raise the voice of those communities through a variety of avenues. We have served more than 20,000 communities in the past decade, focusing where possible on impoverished and diverse communities.
LOR is a family foundation that works to increase prosperity in the rural Mountain West, while preserving the character that defines these iconic places. Together with communities, we revitalize main streets, protect clean water supplies, preserve agricultural land and open space, and improve access to the outdoors and recreation. The organization was founded in 2007 on the simple premise that communities can find economic sustainability without sacrificing what they love about the place they call home. To get there, LOR provides locals with the resources to tackle problems using solutions that fit the community’s character and unique needs. We understand why people are rural by choice. Our hope is to make that choice easier.
The 2019 Wisconsin State Partner