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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


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.


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.


Rural Action and ACEnet team up to support local 4-H and FFA

Perry County Blue Ribbon Pork proceeds benefit local 4-H and FFA.

Perry County Blue Ribbon Pork proceeds benefit local 4-H and FFA.

Perry County Blue Ribbon Pork is a new line of top quality pork products soon available for purchase in various places in Perry County. The Blue Ribbon Perry County Pork project is a partnership between Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture, the Village of Somerset, and community members working to make 4-H pork available for sale in the community, expanding the markets available for local 4-H participants. The program offers Blue Ribbon Pork at the Somerset Farmers Market and at the Carpenter’s Market in Somerset and in participating stores.

The pork is purchased at the Perry County Fair, then processed and packaged in a USDA certified facility located in Zanesville Ohio. Pork products include Smoked ham and bacon, Blue Ribbon pork chops, Ground breakfast sausage, Breakfast sausage links, Italian ground sausage, and German Bratwurst. The collaboration has led to improved quality and quantity of food available within the community, and proceeds benefit 4-H and FFA programs. ACEnet Food Ventures Director, Larry Fisher has worked with the producers group to understand the meat regulatory environment, labeling requirements, and the nutrition facts panel. The brand will also partner with the 30 Mile Meal Perry County brand program.