Volume XX | Issue 2 | Fall 2020

Virus pandemic tests community resilience

COVID-19 reveals strengths and weaknesses as rural leaders respond

We started researching the stories for this edition of Community Vitality in the summer of 2020. It was clear then that our nation and our region were experiencing an unprecedented combination of health, economic and racial crises, but we had no idea how long it would last and how much it would affect us. 

We have experienced tragic loss of life, social and political unrest, and a recession that has deprived millions of stable incomes. And, now, as we go to press on this issue, our region is being devastated by the most catastrophic wildfires we have ever seen. 

As we talked with people from across Oregon and Northern California, it quickly became apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly harmed all facets of daily life in rural communities — from caring for and educating our children, to business operations, to our ability to help our most vulnerable populations. 

We send love, support and courage to all of you.

The extent of the pain and suffering is almost unfathomable, and we at The Ford Family Foundation send love, support and courage to all of you. 

Beacons of hope

But it is in our nature to find the beacons of hope during times of darkness. As we were learning about the impact of COVID-19, something else became apparent — rural leaders in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California, are fearlessly stepping up to the challenge. 

Economic development agencies are preparing their communities for what comes next. Child care centers are creating innovative solutions to address critical shortages of care. Internet access is coming to even the most rural, infrastructure-challenged areas. 

Those of us dedicated to building vital communities where children and families can thrive are encouraged by this response. Rural leaders have reported to us that they have been able to use the connections, capacity and culture developed through the community building process to effectively take action. 

The virus has exposed structural flaws in our systems and worsened them, but it also has provided us with a rare opportunity. It has revealed, more clearly than ever, the places where we must invest urgently for the well-being of the residents and communities of our region. We can use this time to identify strategies to make progress on them so we are prepared for whatever the future might bring.  

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