New program aims to foster leadership skills, establish community-driven project

The deadline to sign up for RDI’s Pierce County/White River Plateau Rural Community Leadership Program is Sept. 23.

An Oregon-based nonprofit is coming to the Plateau to offer a five-month course in developing rural leadership and the chance to organize a grass-roots project.

Since forming in 1991, Rural Development Leadership’s goal is to revitalize rural communities by bringing residents together to identify a community need, form a network of local talents and resources, and establish a concrete plan for how to address that need.

“The process that we’re teaching is to really get these folks to take leadership into their own hands,” said Jonelle McCoy, a Rural Development Leadership project manager. “And as a part of that, the whole of the group gets to hear different proposals from individual members for what the project might be, and then are guided through a few decision making processes… to determine which one they want to do.”

Although the private nonprofit began in Eugene, Oregon, it has been slowly coming into Washington, and with the aid of several charitable foundations and individual donations, decided to start a program in Pierce County — specifically, Buckley.

“We had folks mention that this was a good hub, that Buckley and Enumclaw had other communities that were close enough that we could really create a multi-community cohort, which is always very exciting to me,” McCoy continued. “But we are starting here, and not necessarily ending here, and we will be working throughout Pierce County for the next three years.”

Because Enumclaw is both geographically and socio-economically connected to Buckley, locals from both cities are encouraged to sign up for the free program, which starts this month and ends in February (although time commitments are not limited to these sessions).

Although the original deadline to sign up for the Pierce County/White River Plateau Rural Community Leadership Program was Sept. 13, the deadline has been extended to Monday, Sept. 23 at noon.

The program offers five sessions, split between one Friday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and one Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. per month. Sessions are held either in Buckley’s Multi-Purpose Center on Main Street or Enumclaw’s St. Elizabeth Hospital on Battersby Avenue; meals and materials for the sessions will be provided.

The kick-off is scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 25, and is geared toward getting volunteers to meet each other and break the ice before the real work begins.

The first session is Friday, Oct. 18 and the following Saturday, and will focus on establishing personal leadership styles while also starting to brainstorm about a community project.

The second is Nov. 1 and 2, and will go over how to identify and utilize community connections, manage disagreements and conflicts, and improve interpersonal communication techniques.

Session three is Dec. 7 and 8, and aims to help volunteers develop their presentation skills and select their community project.

Session four, Jan. 24 and 25, goes about finding more community volunteers and resources to get the community project off the ground and how to keep momentum going.

Finally, session five is just on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., to further develop financial and community resources for the project.

After session five, the program leaders are expected to continue working together to finish their project.

Space is limited to the first 35 people to sign up, but those who don’t make the program are placed on a wait list and will be one of the many people contacted when a community project is established and the call for volunteers is made.

To sign up for the program, go online to

For more information about the program, head to or contact McCoy at 541-684-9077 ext. 7031 or

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