On Friday, Governor Brown announced another two week period of stricter COVID precautions that will go into effect on Wednesday, November 18th. In response to spiking cases and increasing deaths in our state, the new restrictions include limiting restaurants to take-out service only and limiting gatherings both indoor and outdoor to no more than 6 people.
We are alarmed and heartbroken at the toll that COVID-19, the economic recession, and the slow response to test, treat, and prevent the spread of this pandemic has taken on our communities. We are also amazed at the ways that rural Oregonians are rejecting an every-person-for-themselves mentality and showing up for each other. Read on for stories of how groups started taking action in response to the shut down last spring, and a NEW opportunity to build community connections around an internet hotspot.
COVID Responses from Across the Network
When COVID-19 first started impacting our state in the spring, hundreds of leaders from across the ROP network gathered by phone and computer for rural strategy sessions on some of our most pressing issues, like feeding our communities and ensuring reliable information access for all (you can watch all of the strategy session recordings here!) We also shared mutual aid solutions we were creating with each other. We won’t stop figuring out how to pool our resources and organize to meet each other’s needs in the short and the long term.
Through these strategy sessions and many more conversations across the network, we co-created the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon that lays out our network’s priorities for the months and years to come! The Roadmap reflects not only what we need to survive this time, but our vision for a future that takes care of all of us. Check out the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon here! What would you add to the Roadmap? How is your group organizing to make it a reality? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!
In Yamhill County, organizers with Progressive Yamhill posted bilingual paper flyers around their neighborhoods to both build up a list of contact information as well as assess what people need and what they have to offer each other. In Union County, organizers sent a letter to everyone in their ZIP code with a similar message. Across our state, groups have been distributing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to essential workers and winning tens of millions of dollars for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund that has gone towards community members without access to Federal support like Unemployment Insurance. In school districts in Clatsop, Lane, Umatilla and other counties, folks worked with their school districts to repurpose bus routes to deliver food to students at home. Find more ideas and resources from across the state on our website!
Create a Community Internet Hotspot!
One of the many priorities on the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon is Broadband Internet for All. After this clear feedback from the network, ROP now has 12 hotspots and service for a year to distribute around the state to increase internet access and foster community connections. While we know that 12 hotspots will come nowhere close to meeting the vast need across our state, we are hoping to showcase the power that internet access can provide in rural communities, and use it as a gateway to advocate for publicly-funded infrastructure.
Prior to the pandemic, Janie Hanthorn, an ROP fellow, along with other folks in Jewell were beginning to organize to create a community center in town. Once COVID slowed down their plans, they started thinking about how to take the resources and opportunities that the community center would provide and offer those same things in a decentralized way. They asked, “What would make up a community center?” and came up with these core elements:
- A space to gather and share things like food and clothing.
- A place for young people to feel supported by, engaged with, and able to take on leadership in the community.
- And a way for folks to exchange information by chatting with neighbors, getting online and learning about where to access resources locally.
To provide these things in creative ways, the group is looking for a central location in town where people could drop off and pick up food. They brainstormed creating a scavenger hunt around town with socially-distant activities for kids around envisioning the future for their community. And the idea of setting up a hotspot in a public place came up as another option! Like folks in Jewell, this is a moment where we’re putting our creativity to work to build community networks in new ways. How could a mobile hotspot be a site of creative community building in your town?
Do you see a clear need for the internet in your community? If your group had access to a hotspot, what would you do with it? We’re interested in hearing how mobile internet access could strengthen your local organizing and support your community! Fill out the survey here before December 4th, if you’re interested in receiving a hotspot.
After the survey closes on December 4th, ROP will review responses and distribute hotspots to 12 groups. If you see a need for a hotspot but want help creating a plan for how to impact the most people, we’d love to help! Email us at email@example.com with any questions.
We don’t know what these next weeks and months will be like, but we know that we’ll keep finding ways to care for each other and pushing for the resources our communities need not just to survive this time but to flourish for the long haul.