This group of local volunteers got together in September 2019 as a part of a Rural Development Initiative program that aimed to help locals develop leadership skills before sending them off to perform their own community project with a small budget. Pictured is Rick Sellers, Ramsey Graham, Lacey Mansanarez, Sue Hart, Peggy Levesque, Mayor Jeff Sellers, Alli Brewer, Leah Haugen, Trip Hart, David McArtor, Jan Burley, Deyton Cunningham, and Venise Cummingham as they cut the ribbon on a community garden in Wilkeson when the project finished summer of 2020. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

This group of local volunteers got together in September 2019 as a part of a Rural Development Initiative program that aimed to help locals develop leadership skills before sending them off to perform their own community project with a small budget. Pictured is Rick Sellers, Ramsey Graham, Lacey Mansanarez, Sue Hart, Peggy Levesque, Mayor Jeff Sellers, Alli Brewer, Leah Haugen, Trip Hart, David McArtor, Jan Burley, Deyton Cunningham, and Venise Cummingham as they cut the ribbon on a community garden in Wilkeson when the project finished summer of 2020. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Nonprofit offers free leadership training

Rural Development Initiatives starts its program at the end of March.

Rural Development Initiatives is returning to the Plateau to give residents a chance to learn how to be leaders in their community.

Rural Development Initiatives, or RDI, is an Oregon-based nonprofit that aims to gather residents of rural communities together to strengthen their leadership skills before sending them off into their cities and towns to address various needs.

“RDI’s mission for redefining and reestablishing economic and community vitality for Pacific Northwest rural communities is a long game that requires resiliency and tenacity,” said Executive and Finance Coordinator Jessie Katon. “In economic downturns, rural places are impacted more greatly and recover more slowly than urban centers and rural recovery depends upon volunteers and local people stepping into leadership positions to get things done. RDI’s experience over the last 28 years reinforces our strongly held belief that training, activating, and sustaining a critical number of locally invested leaders is foundational to achieving rural community vitality. Their success must be defined locally, their solutions must continue to match the complexity of the problems they face, and their ability to succeed must be within their own control.”

The last time RDI visited the Plateau was in 2019, and the cohort that was formed went on to build a community garden in Wilkeson.

This time around, the program — free for all participants — will consist of nine classes from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. between March 31 and Sept. 9 (primarily on Wednesday evenings, but some on Thursdays). The program is open for all residents of the Plateau and the valley below, from Enumclaw, Buckley, Wilkeson, Orting, Bonney Lake, and Sumner.

The deadline to register for the class is March 12; you can register at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WRP2021. A typical class consists of roughly 25 to 35 people of various ages, interests, and skills, so signing up quickly is recommended.

More information about RDI and its leadership program can be found at https://rdiinc.org/rural-community-leadership-program/.




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