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Mayor’s Day Recognition – April 3rd

From L to R – Paul Rich (OCDCA), Caroline Keyes (Rural Action), Catilin Bond (Rural Action), Katie Conlon (Community Food Initiatives), Raina Schoonover (Community Food Initiatives)

A Mayor’ Day Recognition event was held in Athens on Tuesday, April 3.

The event was put together to celebrate those who have chosen to dedicate their time and efforts to national service through the various branches of AmeriCorps, as well as other community service organizations.

In attendance were some 60 service members and local government officials, as well as representatives from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Senate and House offices, and Governor Kasich’s office.

The event started with a service portion, making seed pods for use in local gardening efforts, and then proceeded to a panel made up of service members.

On the panel was OCDCA’s own Katie Conlon, a VISTA serving at Community Food Initiatives! Katie and the other panelists spoke about how service has changed and deepened their relationships to the community and their careers in general.

We were very proud to see a member of the OCDCA VISTA project speak so highly about the impact of service, and we had fun celebrating national service with all the service members down in Athens!


Dumpster diving an important part of drive toward Zero Waste

Fred Kight of The Athens News:

Needing empty boxes to pack for a move or something, I have selectively scavenged over the years. But my upcoming date with Zero Waste looked to be different.

These folks were going to actually get into a dumpster and go through the contents. Luckily, I remained an observer rather than an active participant.

Zero Waste is an arm of Rural Action, which has its home office in The Plains. The program is trying to eliminate as much as possible from the waste stream and minimize what must be hauled away to a landfill.

One way Zero Waste accomplishes this is by offering advice to businesses and commercial trash customers. The advice is based on a waste audit.

And that audit is what my impending dumpster dive was all about.

Diver Caitlin Garrity, with me tagging along, would make note of what was being put into the container. In addition, Garrity, a Rural Action AmeriCorps member, would do a walk-though of the business and then write a report for the customer that detailed waste-management strengths and opportunities for improvement. She also would help them implement changes.

It’s a win-win deal. By changing their trash habits, the customer saves on disposal costs, and Zero Waste promotes the development of a zero-waste economy.

Read the whole story here.

Photo by dhannte at


Membership meetings: your voice matters

Please join Ohio CDC Association for industry updates and networking. We want to hear your thoughts on your successes, challenges, and ideas!

New this year, we will also focus on a specific community development tactic at each meeting: affordable housing; community economic development; financial empowerment; food access; and community engagement.

Choose either the location or the topic that speaks to you most! The first meeting in Southeast Ohio in April covered food access and was a wonderful success.

Central Ohio 
Theme: Financial Empowerment
1655 Old Leonard Avenue
Columbus, OH 43219
June 14, 2017   /   10 AM – 12 PM
Southwest Ohio 
Theme: Community Economic Development
Price Hill Will
3724 St. Lawrence Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45205
July 12, 2017   /   10 AM – 12 PM
Northwest Ohio 
Theme: Community Engagement
Nexus Health Care
1415 Jefferson Avenue
Toledo, OH 43604
August 16, 2017   /   10 AM – 12 PM
Northeast Ohio 
Theme: Affordable Housing
The Dealership
3558 Lee Road
Shaker Heights, OH 44120
August 22, 2017   /   10 AM – 12 PM

We hope to see you at one or more membership meeting. As a reminder, you do not have to be a member of the Ohio CDC Association to attend these meetings.

We welcome all community development and community-based organizations, local governments, public officials, and more!

If you have any questions, please contact Melissa Miller at (614) 461-6392 ext. 209.

2017 Membership Meetings proudly sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.


Students learn about local food production, environment at Chesterhill Produce Auction

By Samantha Nelson of The Athens Messenger:

School was in session at the Chesterhill Produce Auction on Tuesday and Thursday.

Second graders from Amesville Elementary School visited the auction site in Chesterhill on Tuesday, following by students from Coolville and The Plains elementary schools on Thursday. While there, they were taught various environmental lessons that included learning about native pollinating insects and the important roles they fill in the habitat, how to garden and compost and how to cook a healthy meal using local ingredients.

They also learned how to participate in an auction and learned the importance of philanthropy through food donations.

The Chesterhill Produce Auction is a social enterprise of Rural Action that exists to increase local food production and distribution throughout the area. According to Tom Redfern, Rural Action’s director of sustainable agriculture and forestry and the auction firm manager, the Chesterhill Produce Auction has contributed more than $2 million to the local economy.

It also provides access to fresh and local food in what is considered a food desert, Redfern said. Defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, food deserts are parts of the country that are without fresh and healthy food options, usually in impoverished areas that lack grocery stores or other healthy food providers.

Read the whole article, which includes references to not just Rural Action, but other OCDCA members including Community Food Initiatives and Live Healthy Appalachia as well as AmeriCorps.


Partnership that helps Appalachian counties would be cut under Trump’s budget

Ohio University student paper ran a recent story about the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), a federal economic development agency devoted to Appalachia that was slated for elimination in the President’s recent skinny budget proposal on March 16th.

In it there is a brief background on the ARC, including an interview with Wendy Wasserman, spokesperson for the ARC, and Leslie Schaller, Director of Programs at OCDCA member ACEnet.

From the article:

In Athens, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, or ACEnet, has been working with ARC on local economic development since 1985, when one of its first funded projects opened: a worker-owned restaurant called Casa Nueva.

“What’s unique is that (the ARC) focuses on challenged communities,” Leslie Schaller, the director of programs at ACEnet, said. “This section of southeast Ohio typifies the struggles going on (in Appalachia) with job loss and migration of population.”

Schaller added that eliminating the program “could have a significant economic impact” on the region.

Read more on the ARC in Luke Torrance’s article in The Post.


In Athens, Women’s Heart Health Power Lunch to inform participants about plant-based diets

To celebrate Heart Health Month this February, in Athen’s Ohio, at Ohio University, the Women’s Center, WellWorks and Live Healthy Appalachia are creating a plant-based diet themed lunch on Thursday, February 16. Live Healthy Appalachia is an OCDCA member.

By Emily Doll of The Post:

“Although technically a vegan lunch, Emily Dacquisto, program coordinator at the Women’s Center, said the focus of the lunch is not on the benefits of going vegan.

“The focus will really be on food that is completely all natural and plant based,” Dacquisto said.

Along with educating participants on plant-based living, the women from Live Healthy Appalachia will be speaking about the cost of their power bowls to show people eating healthy doesn’t always break the bank.

“The hope is to show people who attend that (it’s a myth) that eating a plant-based diet is more expensive,” Dacquisto said.

Sherri Oliver, the executive director at Live Healthy Appalachia, said the idea has been in the works since the end of last year, and everyone involved is excited to share their knowledge with the attendees.

“We just wanted to give people something healthy and easy to make (to eat),” she said. “We want to get people excited about healthy eating.””

Read more about the event in The Post. Register at Live Healthy Appalachia’s website.


OCDCA receives program support grant from U.S. Bank Foundation

Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) is pleased to announce the award of $5,000 from the U.S. Bank Foundation for the Ohio Microbusiness Development Recoverable Grant Fund.

Previously administered by the state of Ohio, in 2013, OCDCA assumed direction of the Ohio Microbusiness Development Program (OMDP) through an agreement with Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA). The purpose of the OMDP is to provide funding for community based organizations to further develop a local delivery system that encourages microbusiness development, provides low- and moderate-income (LMI) households with access to capital for business development and self-employment, and creates and retains long-term jobs in the private sector.

Nature’s Magic owner, Danielle Young, in Athens, Ohio received assistance with her business from ACEnet, an OMDP member serving Southeast Ohio. Here she promotes her products at a Kroger Supermarket.

Assistance enabled by this funding includes training, TA, or lending, with loan funds repaid into a local microbusiness recoverable grant fund.

Outcomes for our microbusiness program are strong. In 2015 we assisted 1,413 households, expanded 82 businesses and created or retained 277 jobs.

The Ohio Microbusiness Recoverable Grant Fund is a statewide fund that allows OCDCA to provide funds to member organizations in the OMDP to make micro loans to LMI entrepreneur clients. Repaid grants are placed back into the fund so that more loans can be made in the future. After an organization has approved a microloan for its client through its loan approval process, it requests a recoverable grant from OCDCA. A 1:1 match is required to use funds from the recoverable grant fund.

By expanding the OMDP with the recoverable grant fund, we continue lending to LMI entrepreneurs while leveraging the ODSA dollars to meet the biggest need of the OMDP organizations:  small business development training, TA and administrative costs.

Leslie Schaller, Deonna Barnett, and Liberty Merrill provide insights on marketing microbusiness programs, and reporting data at a Ohio Microbusiness Development Program Summit.

Funding for the Ohio Microbusiness Development Program comes from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund (OHTF) through the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA); therefore, we are very excited and thankful to have these additional dollars for the Recoverable Grant Fund from U.S. Bank Foundation!



State Rep. Debbie Phillips to work for Rural Action after term expires

Samantha Nelson of The Athens Messenger:

As Debbie Phillips’ eight years and four terms as representative for the 94th District of the Ohio House of Representatives comes to a close this month, she prepares to take on the role of a new staff position at Rural Action.

Rural Action is a member-based, regional sustainable community development organization with a mission “to foster social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio.”

Michelle Decker, chief executive officer of Rural Action, recruited Phillips as the development director. Phillips will join {span}21 staff members in five offices across Athens, Perry, Morgan and Tuscarawas counties. The organization also hosts the Ohio Stream Restore Corps, with 26 AmeriCorps members.

In the position, Phillips will work to reinforce the membership and support base of the organization through engaging existing and potential members in its work, and growing its membership and donor base. Phillips will reach out to members and other people who have been involved in the various programs of Rural Action to encourage them to invest into the organization.

Decker said that this will require the position holder — in this case, Phillips — to have face-to-face conversations, organize member meetings and sit down with existing and potential donors to ask and gain an understanding of what they care about and what they want to see Rural Action do.

Although the position has existed within the organization under the umbrellas of other roles in the past, the full-time position stands by itself this time. The organization is “more ready for this position than ever before,” Decker said, and having someone with a “robust skill set” like Phillips will benefit the organization.

Decker said that the development director position was created because of the decision by the board of directors of Rural Action to invest the organization’s funds into development. The board sees the organization growing, and they want to make sure that the organization will keep up with that growth, Decker said.

With Phillips’ term as representative set to expire soon, Decker said Rural Action saw a “special opportunity” for Phillips to work with them.

Phillips said she is excited to work for Rural Action. “I love the work that Rural Action does and the way they do the work,” she said.

Phillips said that although she loves the work she has done as the district’s state representative and considers it an honor to have served in the position, she acknowledged that the position can be frustrating because of gridlock and partisanship that occurs within the Statehouse. Phillips said that she looks forward to working with an entity operated by local members who are all working toward “positive community development.”

She is also excited to learn about projects and other work that more recent members of Rural Action are doing, particularly the younger members.

“A lot of young leaders have gotten a great start through Rural Action,” she said.

Phillips has worked with Rural Action in the past, during and prior to her service as the district’s state representative. In 2001, Phillips started working with the organization as the founding executive director of Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, which was hosted through Rural Action.

Phillips’ term as state representative will end at the end of December, and her position as development director for Rural Action will start at the beginning of January, 2017.

Read the whole article here.


New training: mixed use incubator in rural settings

If your organization has an interest in mixed use incubation, please join us on January 25, 2017 at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) facilities in Athens. A complete agenda is below. This training is funded through the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) through USDA.

Mixed Use Incubators in Rural Settings
January 25, 2017
10:00 AM – 4:30 PM

ACEnet Facilities
94 Columbus Road
Athens, Ohio 45701

Register Here!

Vino de Milo, a specialty food creator in Athens, uses the ACEnet kitchen incubator.

Vino de Milo, a specialty food creator in Athens, uses the ACEnet kitchen incubator.

The training is free for Ohio CDC Association members and costs $30 for non-members. Invoices will be sent after registration. Lunch cost is not included.

Time Activity
10:00 AM – 10:30 AM Welcome: Introductions, & Coffee
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Incubation Program Overview: Mixed Use Incubators in Rural Settings

  • Facilities
  • Client Mix
  • ACEnet Services Breakout (Project Planning, Consulting, Other Services)
12:00 PM – 12:30 PM Tour: Tour of ACEnet’s Campus, including the Food Ventures Center
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Lunch: Lunch will take place at an Athens30 Mile Meal partner restaurant
1:30 PM – 4:00 PM Rebuilding the Local Food Economy: The Food Ventures Center

  • Working with Local Food Businesses
  • Value Chain: Start-to-Finish (Challenges to face at every link in the value chain)
  • Working with Local Food Systems
4:00 PM – 4:30 PM Q&A: Q&A Session with ACEnet Staff

Ohio Partnership Selected for National Initiative Leveraging Arts to Revitalize Communities

Ohio CDC Association and Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation announced today that they were one of three partnerships selected nationwide to engage in an intensive, one year program to build knowledge and advance creative placemaking in the state. Creative placemaking is a strategy to revitalize communities and local economies by intentionally leveraging the power of arts, culture and creativity.

The Creative Placemaking Immersion Program will provide intensive training and technical assistance to the three partnerships. The program is managed by the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) in partnership with Americans for the Arts and is funded in part by an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to NACEDA.

“From small town to urban Ohio, arts and community development organizations are successfully partnering on creative placemaking initiatives,” said Nate Coffman, executive director of the Ohio CDC Association. “We look forward to working with the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation and our local community and arts partners to build cross-sector knowledge on how these unique collaborations can improve the quality of life in their communities.”


Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation is Ohio CDC Association’s lead partner on the initiative. “We are excited about partnering with the Ohio CDC Association to build on our state’s creative placemaking successes,” said Linda Woggon, executive director of Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation. “Community development corporations and arts organizations working together will help strengthen our economy and our communities.”

The Ohio CDC Association and Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation, in collaboration with three additional partnerships within Ohio, will conduct trainings for community development and arts practitioners in Cleveland, Hamilton, and rural southeast Ohio as well as virtual meetings and provide coaching to participants. The partners will produce a video featuring footage of hands-on learning activities from the trainings and tours of the creative placemaking projects in the three selected areas.

The selected partners within Ohio are:

  • Northeast Shore Development Corporation and Community Partnership for Arts and Culture in Cleveland
  • City of Hamilton Development Department and Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton
  • Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District and Appalachian Hills of Ohio Territory in Southeast Ohio