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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!


Stuck in dial-up age, rural Ohio still pushing for high-speed internet

A recent Dispatch article featured Terri Fetherolf of OCDCA member Vinton County Economic Development Board.

Marion Renault of The Columbus Dispatch:

“McARTHUR — Terri Fetherolf has two wishes for Vinton County: clean water and fast internet.

The first is imperative for its safety and health. “But rolling out broadband is key to our economic survival,” said Fetherolf, Vinton County’s development director.

Today, high-speed internet has become a utility as important as sewage systems, the electricity grid and highways.

But despite the internet’s tightening chokehold on technologies embedded in our pockets, homes, vehicles and public spaces, more than 1 million Ohioans have zero access to fast, reliable broadband at home.

Almost a third of Ohio’s rural residents lack home access to broadband, compared with just 2 percent of urbanites, according to Federal Communications Commission estimates. Those figures are slightly better than the national rate.

Last week, a legislative proposal to establish a $50-million-per-year broadband development grant program inched forward, fueling the hopes of advocates.”

Read the full article.


Advocates and congressional champions secure increased affordable housing funding for 2018

From the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

The final fiscal year (FY) 2018 spending bill – released yesterday, March 21, by Congressional leaders – includes a significant increase in funding for affordable housing and community development programs at HUD and USDA, along with an increase in Low Income Housing Tax Credits and an important reform to the tax program. This successful outcome is due to the hard work of advocates across the nation and strong Congressional champions, including Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and David Price (R-NC) – the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittees – as well as Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and others.

The bill provides HUD programs with $4.6 billion in additional funding overall compared to FY17, or more than $12 billion above the president’s FY18 request. With a 10% one-year increase to HUD, many programs were funded at levels significantly above what was proposed in either the House or Senate draft bills. The spending bill renews all Housing Choice Vouchers and provides new vouchers to veterans and people with disabilities, allocates nearly $1 billion in additional funding to repair and operate public housing, and boosts funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME) to the highest level in seven years. Moreover, the final bill includes none of rent increases proposed by the president in his budget request. See NLIHC’s updated budget chart for more details.

The final FY18 spending bill is a clear repudiation of the president’s budget request, which would have cut funding for HUD by nearly 15%, or $7.4 billion, compared to FY17 levels, provided the HUD secretary with the authority to increase the financial burden on current and future tenants, eliminated 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers, and slashed or zeroed out funding for public housing, the national Housing Trust Fund, HOME, and Community Development Block Grants.

The House is expected to vote on the bill as soon as today, March 22, followed by the Senate soon thereafter. Congress must enact the spending bill before the current stop-gap spending measure expires on Friday, March 23. Congressional leaders could turn to a short, day-long continuing resolution to provide enough time to overcome procedural hurdles. Once the bill is enacted, NLIHC and our partners in the Campaign for Housing and Community Development will turn our full attention to defeating the president’s FY19 budget request, securing the highest allocation possible for affordable housing and community development programs, and defeating harmful benefit cuts.

Read and learn more on the NLIHC’s website.


Yellow Springs fourth-graders eye affordable housing

A heart warming story out of Yellow Springs, Ohio, a small, rural village in West-Central Ohio. Fourth graders at a local school working on a big project that really affected the community. They surveyed local residents about pressing issues, and decided to focus on affordable housing, which is a major challenge for the town – one that resonated with many of the students.

“Zoe Siemer, 10, said her family also lives in Xenia, and her father drives her to school each day.

“It took like three years before my family found a home here,” said Kiernan Anderson, 10 this month.

“My grandma and grandpa always wanted to live here,” Jonah Simon, 10, said.”

The semester-long study culminated in a visit from OCDCA member, YS Home Inc, where students shared their learnings and engaged in conversation with the Home, Inc. staff about affordable housing and their organization. One student asked Home, Inc. Executive Director and OCDCA board vice president Emily Seibel if she was proud:

“I’m proud of our mission,” she said. “It’s incredibly humbling to do this work. It’s food for the soul to help people get a home.”

Read the full article by Carol Simmons in The Yellow Springs News.

Photo by Carol Simmons


ICYMI: AmeriCorps VISTA year-long sub-site RFP available

RFP Opportunity Details

OCDCA welcomes current, good standing members to submit an application to become a sub-site to the OCDCA VISTA Project to begin summer 2018.

Funding for the OCDCA VISTA Project is provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI), and the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) through the Ohio Housing Trust Fund (OHTF). Limited slots are available; therefore, this is a competitive process and some slots will be reserved for housing-only and rural-only initiatives.

This will be your only opportunity in 2018 to apply for OCDCA VISTA support.

If your organization is interested in becoming a sub-site of the OCDCA VISTA Project, please complete the RFP by 5 PM January 19, 2017.

Applying organizations must be members of OCDCA, and the membership process is easy. Brand new members may receive 50% off their dues by using code NMVISTA at checkout.

For questions or technical assistance, please contact Melissa Miller at or by phone at 614-461-6392 ext. 209.

Need TA on the Application?

AmeriCorps VISTA RFP TA Webinar   /   January 16, 2018   /   2:00 – 3:30 PM   /   Register Here!

This webinar will go through common errors in applications and what makes a great application. This is a great time to get all your RFP questions answered.


Local donations will soon head to Texas

Nancy Radcliff via Circleville Herald:

A beautiful story of a community coming together to aid another community.

“The Circleville City School District has teamed up with Pickaway County Community Action (PICCA) and Shears Barber Shop to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the Houston, Texas area.

“I wanted to do something to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey,” said Kim Kroen, with Shears Barber Shop in Circleville. Together with owner Denise Huff, they contacted PICCA, and began organizing a truckload of donations to head to Texas. Kroen said donations have been pouring in at Shears and the community is really coming through. The items will be transported to Texas by Andy Bowen, of Bowen Trucking.

PICCA will be accepting donations until 3 p.m. Friday at their location, 469 E. Ohio Street. Shears Barber Shop, 216 Scioto St., will be collecting donations until 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Donated items needed are diapers, baby formula, baby food, non-perishable food, paper towels, toilet paper, bottled water, pet supplies, first aid materials, wheelchairs, Ensure drinks, adult diapers, hygiene products, disposable plates, cups and utensils. They ask that you do not donate glass materials.

e-Merge Real Estate is collecting items for Hurricane Harvey Relief on Sat., Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at two different locations. In Circleville, at 105 W. Mound St., and in South Bloomfield, and 5027 S. Walnut St.

Additional items they’re looking for include blankets, plain T-shirts (small child up to adult) sweatpants (small size up to adult), socks and underwear (all sizes, boy and girl), box fans, pet supplies, sleeping bags, and heavy duty bags for distribution.

All items collected by e-Merge will be distributed at The Word of God Christian Fellowship Church in Cypress, Texas, and the George Brown Convention Center in Houston.”

Read the whole story with photos in the Circleville Herald.


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


Creative Placemaking Ohio

Wow…we finally completed the second workshop of Creative Placemaking Ohio. More will be written on all of that later – what we learned, what we did, etc.

Michael Seiler leads a tour explaining the placemaking and development work occurring in downtown Zanesville.

In the meantime, there is lots of fun stuff to share! WHIZ News came out to Seilers’ Studio and Gallery yesterday in Zanesville to cover our workshop. Watch that feature. Thanks, Karysa Kent and WHIZ for covering the event!

More information about the event in general:

Arts, community development, and other organizations and municipalities gathered at Seilers’ Studio & Gallery in Zanesville for the Creative Placemaking Ohio workshop on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Creative placemaking is a strategy to revitalize communities and local economies by intentionally leveraging the power of arts, culture and creativity.

The Creative Placemaking Ohio project is a statewide collaboration between Ohio CDC Association and Ohio Citizens for the Arts, with local partners Appalachian Hills of Ohio Territory and Buckeye Hills Regional Council, and is one of three projects selected nationwide for the Creative Placemaking Immersion Program, which is funded by the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) in partnership with Americans for the Arts through an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Groups share perceived notions between artists and community developers including how they may approach commercial development or how they make work together.

“Nationally, NACEDA has brought together an innovative partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and Americans for the arts because we all believe that when community developers and artists come together, prosperity and the community spirit grow,” says Frank Woodruff, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations. “By hosting Ohio CDC Association and Ohio Citizens for the Arts’ Creative Placemaking Ohio, Zanesville and Southeast Ohio are showing a strong commitment to building partnerships that support creative and economic growth.”

Key components of the workshop are overviews of community development, art, and creative placemaking; local project tours; cross-sector stereotype conversations; and arts-based brainstorming sessions. This workshop will show what is possible when community developers and artists work together in the community.

“Every dollar invested by the National Endowment for the Arts leverages an additional $9 in economic activity,” says Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “Appalachian Hills of Ohio Territory’s Creative Placemaking Ohio commitment demonstrates the organization’s commitment to local economic vitality and economic impact, but also recognizes the arts as a key vehicle for engaging citizenry within a community.”

Stay tuned for findings from the project!


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.