ROP Staff Changes and Program Updates

Dear ROP Community,
When I became involved in ROP just 3 years ago, I was thankful to be connected to people all across the state committed to ensuring human dignity for all. As Board Chair, I am honored to help lead ROP and to share some important news with you.
Beginning December 1st, 2019, Jess Campbell will assume the exclusive role of ROP Executive Director. Jess started with ROP as a leader of a Cottage Grove-based human dignity group and has served in every role at ROP from Board member to staff organizer to Co-Executive Director for the last three and a half years. The Board has great confidence in her abilities and commitment based on her exemplary work with ROP over the years, and we are pleased to see her take on this new set of responsibilities.
Cara Shufelt, who has been with ROP since 2002, and who has been a Co-Executive Director with Jess, will be leaving ROP in April 2020. Cara has made many critically important contributions to ROP. We thank her for her leadership, dedication, and tireless work and we wish her the best as she moves on to new challenges and adventures. We are pleased that for the next five months, Cara will focus her efforts on an exciting new ROP growth initiative which will include a membership and fundraising drive.
The Board of Directors has been working with ROP staff over the last few months to ensure a smooth staff transition, to accommodate our expanding organizing team, and to oversee the opportunity presented to us with the acquisition of a new Community Organizing Center in Cottage Grove.
We are pleased that 2019 closes with key ROP accomplishments:
  • Our network has grown to 65 groups organizing in 30 of Oregon’s 36 counties and one tribal community. We welcomed 16 new groups this year!
  • We successfully completed our first Rural Organizing Fellowship, which brought together and resourced 10 incredible community organizers to carry out projects that built rural people’s power across rural Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and Warm Springs.
  • Human dignity leaders organized and won hard-fought victories locally and across the state including, including mobilizing leaders in every legislative district in the state to win Driver’s Licenses for All and after a yearlong campaign of powerful community-building after a neo-Nazi knife shop moved onto Cottage Grove’s Main Street, the shop closed its doors and the community continues their long haul work for economic, racial, and social justice.
  • We launched Rural Roots Rising, a podcast and radio show that features voices and organizing lessons from strategic community leaders building the movement for human dignity in Oregon.
  • ROP opened the doors of our new Community Organizing Center in downtown Cottage Grove, where local and statewide groups gather to lead community events and build shared organizing strategies across communities.
We look forward to 2020 with excitement and a strong ongoing commitment to build the movement for human dignity in rural Oregon. As we all know, these challenges are immense but also that ROP makes an important difference. We will soon be launching a new website which will include details about the Community Organizing Center, current and new programs, and further updates on new staff.
I am deeply appreciative of the ROP community and grateful to all the staff, lead volunteers, and supporters that make this work possible. We will be reaching out to you after the holidays to include you in kicking off our 2020 program.
Martha Verduzco
Chair, Rural Organizing Project Board of Directors

With Deep Love and Gratitude, A Message from Cara
For the last 17 years, ROP has not only been the place where I do my work, but it has also been my movement home. I’ve had the honor to work side-by-side with hundreds of rural Oregonians leading the fight for human dignity in their communities, and brilliant leaders like our Founder Marcy Westerling and fellow Co-Director Jess Campbell. While I am leaving ROP staff this Spring to start a family with my partner, I will always remain a steadfast cheerleader and volunteer with ROP.
Over the last several years ROP has expanded and grown: supporting and connecting cutting-edge organizing in rural communities across the state, launching a Rural Organizing Fellowship, hitting the airwaves with our Rural Roots Rising podcast, and opening our Community Organizing Center. In my new role as Director of Strategic Initiatives, I am honored to spend the next 5 months helping realize the possibilities of the Community Organizing Center while building a sustainable future for ROP years to come.
It has been a gift to know and work with Jess Campbell for the last 15 years, and most recently as Co-Director. I am continually inspired by her fierce organizing skills and her visionary leadership, always taking on the challenges of the moment in a way that builds collective leadership and expands our impact. ROP is lucky to have her as Executive Director in the years ahead.
With deep love and gratitude,

Building a Bigger and Bolder Rural Movement, A Message from Jess
It is an honor to become ROP’s Executive Director in a moment when ROP’s work is more crucial than ever. I am standing on the shoulders of many in this role doing this work before me, including the indomitable Marcy Westerling and my dear friend and colleague Cara Shufelt. I have been continually awed by Cara’s unbridled enthusiasm for community organizing and her infectious optimism for the possibilities we can create with our neighbors. I am grateful to know Cara will remain close to ROP while she continues onto new and exciting adventures!
I am continually impressed and inspired by the work our mighty network accomplishes, even during hard and demoralizing times. Our members are building stronger multiracial and multigenerational community leadership deeply rooted in the rural values of fairness and showing up for our neighbors, creatively confronting and countering white nationalist organizing, defending and expanding core community infrastructure like libraries and schools, and showing up in Salem and in districts with a unified voice to pass policies like Paid Family Leave and Driver’s Licenses for All that make such a difference for the safety and dignity for all rural Oregonians. Momentum has been built, and we are ready for 2020!
I am also deeply proud of how we are experimenting with how to build a bigger and bolder movement for justice with our lean and mean organizing team. Our work has expanded to include the Rural Organizing Fellowship to train current and emerging rural movement leaders, our Community Organizing Center as a movement gathering space for people organizing for human dignity across rural Oregon, and we are piloting, testing, and tweaking a series of new programs and workshops as directed by our members at this year’s Rural Caucus & Strategy Session. This work is only possible because of the incredible leadership of our base and network of member groups leading the way! I cannot wait to see what we accomplish together next!
Much love and solidarity,