Brainstorming for rural communities

I read an article in the Wichita Eagle on Monday about a couple of events coming in October, sponsored by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, whose mission is “to preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities.”

Marci Penner, who founded the foundation with her father, is a tireless cheerleader for the state and especially small communities like all of those in this county. She has come up with many unique and clever ways to encourage all of us to get out on the back roads, discover our state, and support the businesses we find out there.

This latest idea is called “Big Rural Brainstorms for PowerUps.” “PowerUps” are Kansas young people. They are the “kids” in the 21 to 39-year old bracket who appreciate rural living and want to see Kansas’ rural communities survive. The brainstorming sessions are for them. There will be two — one from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at Camp Wood at Elmdale and a second from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Horsethief Reservoir Park office near Jetmore.

The idea is to engage the PowerUps in the survival of rural communities because they appreciate them and want to see them survive. Many live in them and want to continue to do so. They want to raise their families, educate their children, and open their new businesses there. By a large percent, they are Internet and social media savvy. They know they can open a business anywhere and reach customers across the globe. They can call rural Kansas home and still earn a good living.

Pretty good idea, Marci Penner, pretty good idea.

The brainstorming sessions will not be handled like a traditional conference. Participants will not sit and listen to “experts” tell them how to grow their communities and businesses. The PowerUps themselves will be the experts. The participants will create solutions not only for their communities, but also for rural areas in general. They will face the future of their state and figure out a way to sustain their quality of life in rural Kansas.

One issue that I have heard echoed again and again since taking this newspaper gig back in 2001 is “How do we get our young people involved?” Peabody is not alone in that situation. Others from small Kansas towns have asked that same question. From helping with traditional youth activities like scouting, church youth groups, children’s theaters, musical organizations, and athletic teams to serving as board members for cities, schools, nursing homes, veterans’ groups, museums, hospitals, churches, economic development groups, all communities seem to wonder when the younger generation might step up to the plate.

Often I have wondered if some of us “old guys” just put off an aura that says, “no, you aren’t ready to lead and I am not ready to give up my spot!” What do you think?

I think Marci Penner has a stupendous idea and I am going to support the project. It is possible that no sweeping changes will come from these first Big Rural Brainstorms, but then again, how do we know? There is a $25 fee to attend and I will put my money where my mouth is and pay for four Peabody PowerUps to attend the meeting Oct. 8 at Elmdale. The only requirements, according to the Kansas Sampler Foundation website, are to be positive, to believe in rural living, and to fit into the 21-39 age bracket. If you meet those requirements, I will send four of you. You don’t need to do anything in return — just go and give it your best.

Check out the foundation website, read about the Big Rural Brainstorming sessions, clear your calendar on Oct. 8 (a Monday, Columbus Day) and go for it. I think this is a pretty big deal.

— SUSAN MARSHALL

 

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