Annual Letter for 2021

Dear Friend, Supporter, and Neighbor,

Something about the shorter days and longer nights has us contemplating what the future may hold and what the recent past has provided us for answers. This past year we have experienced some important wins. Those wins have come in a few different forms: the implementation of our financial coaching program in Spanish and English, the establishment of an endowment fund at the Benton Community Foundation, and the return to in-person programming in our early childhood and parenting education offerings.

In particular, the creation of the endowment is notable, as it has been a long-term goal of the Strengthening Rural Families’ Board of Directors and is a direct result of their efforts as volunteer leaders and contributors. It also reminds us of the quote which, to paraphrase, says, “A wise person is willing to plant trees that they will never see the shade of.” We certainly have an appreciation for those in our orbit that can take the long view and see how their work and support now can impact the generations to come.

Another important reflection has been that it is our collaborative approach and relationships that have carried us through this challenging period. This has been true within our organization as well as with our new and old external partners. During the slow-moving disaster of the pandemic, it became very clear that those investments in working together and having established relationships is the key to navigating the difficulties of this time. Without these to draw on, it would have been and would remain impossible to operate.

Almost every day we must tap into the energy, skills, knowledge, and resources of school staff, health department workers, our nonprofit and agency partners, and the families we serve to remain afloat. We have never appreciated more the ability to pick up the phone, or click the mouse, to get an answer or a friendly voice to talk it over with. It is certainly our intent to give the same when we are called on.

In terms of our early childhood and parenting education programs, we have full rooms at the Alsea Pups Preschool in Alsea and the Next Steps program in Philomath. Our Santiam Canyon Early Childhood Center is building back up, as much of the community has been doing after the double impacts of pandemic and wildfire. We are back to hosting an in-person Live and Learn Toddler program in Philomath, and it is incredibly refreshing to have that group and their parents interacting and building community again.

Our intention is to bring back parenting education class series in both Monroe and Philomath, after the first of the year. The Monroe class will be in Spanish and the Philomath one in English. We are also planning for Live and Learn Baby to be back, in Philomath in 2022. We continue to provide parent coaching as well, that is available both through our program specifically and through our connection with the Parenting Success Network.

Our financial coaching program, $tand by Me, lifted off the ground this past year. Its goal is to help people save money, reduce debt, plan for big expenses, and become more financially literate. It has been an interesting journey to startup a new program over this past year but rewarding to see our staff get traction with their work and witness the assistance they are giving to individuals in our communities. Because of the funding we have received from Benton County, Oregon Council of Western Governments, United Way, and Oregon Community Foundation, we are able to provide this service for free.

As this is our annual campaign letter we would be remiss to not ask for your support for our organization, our services, and our programs. However, given the nature of the world, our primary request this year is that you take some time in the next few weeks to engage in an act of meaning, purpose, or reflection for yourself, a neighbor, friend, or family member.

This year in our classrooms, meetings, and communities, we are noticing more than ever the benefits of a kind word, a helping hand, or a moment of authentic connection and its very real impact for all of us. Of course, we would be incredibly grateful and appreciative of any tangible support you would see fit to share. Right now in this time, though, it seems like the best gifts may be those of action and meaning.

All our Best to You and Yours,

The Staff and Board of Strengthening Rural Families