Dec. 20, 2017 — Two weeks ago, Siuslaw Vision 2025 held a public meeting at the Siuslaw Public Library to update community members on current projects and progress of the Vision Keepers.
Library Director and Vision Co-Chair Meg Spencer opened the Dec. 7 meeting with news that the Vision received a $280,000 grant from The Ford Family Foundation for the next three years.
“We’ve started and done this work, and now we’ve got money to help us in that work to continue to implement the Vision,” Spencer said.
The grant will fund a full-time coordinator position, currently filled part-time by Susy Lacer, to organize and work with a multitude of community initiatives under the Vision’s umbrella.
Besides the coordinator position, the Vision will also now have funds for two other contracted positions, in information technology and administration.
“This funding helps meet one of the Vision’s biggest goals: creating living wage work opportunities in the Siuslaw region,” Lacer said.
The Vision works in six categories: Working People — jobs; Happy People — health; Educated People — learning; Connected People — services; Creative People — arts; and Active People — recreation. It brings together input from a variety of community meetings and surveys conducted in 2015. All this works together to make up the 2025 Vision.
“One of the things we’ve been trying to do all along is make sure we keep getting new people involved, keep moving forward and keep making sure that nobody gets burned out,” Spencer said.
The way the Vision does this is by inviting community members, called Vision Keepers, to work on projects they are interested in starting or supporting.
Mary Shaw joined the Vision to share her knowledge in local and sustainable foods.
“The mission of the Vision Keepers was to provide services and experiences for the entire Siuslaw region,” she said. “That felt so much bigger to me than just Florence.”
Shaw gave a cooking demonstration during the meeting and talked about ways the Vision can bring cooking classes to food shares and school groups. The Local Foods Initiative is also working to network Siuslaw farmers in and outside the region and bring a farmer’s market to Bay Street by spring 2018.
Lacer said, “The vision is here to support all of these different efforts, all of these government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and people like Mary who have an idea. The vision is here to support, to have connections and to help you achieve all the really cool projects you’re working on in this area.”
Other groups gave updates on programs in the works, including Siuslaw Broadband/Hyak and its plans to “light up” Florence’s new fiber network by mid-January; City of Florence, Florence Urban Renewal Agency, Oregon Department of Transportation and Lane County’s ReVision Florence Streetscaping Project on Highways 101 and 126; Siuslaw Youth Soccer Association and its efforts to bring club soccer to nearly 200 youth in Florence, Mapleton and Reedsport; and community health projects, career technical training and even a plan to bring state-funded preschool to Mapleton.
“Almost anything you can imagine is part of this vision,” Lacer said.
“We’re seeing a lot of diversity between the things that are institutionally led and the things where people in the community said they wanted to step in, with things like local foods and the Siuslaw Youth Soccer Association,” she said. “What I like about this vision is that, at the end of the day when someone comes up to me and says, ‘I have this great idea,’ I can say, ‘Great. How can we help you do that?’”
One of those people is Greg Wood, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw and founder of the Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, who saw a need in the community and stepped forward.
He told the story of a homeless family who asked for a replacement tent, since the family’s current one could not keep out rodents.
“Several pastors I meet with started talking about this and came up with the idea of trying to buy cheap but serviceable travel trailers and put families in them,” he said.
Soon after, Wood and others formed First Step, which operates under the cold weather shelter’s 501(c)(3), to provide transitional housing services for families.
“A family that is struggling to stay warm and dry at night probably isn’t going to be very productive in the community,” Wood said. “Our anecdotal evidence suggests that when they are given even a travel trailer, their kids go to school more often and they are free to use some of the energy to get a job, clear up their legal records and do some things that are actually helpful and productive in Florence.”
First Step accepts donations of money or trailers to help “house the unhoused.” It is also working with county and city regulations to legally set up areas where these trailers can stay more permanently.
Wood envisions a one-year pilot program, and seeks additional community input and partnerships.
He also presented at Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s Noon Forum on Dec. 14.
“Something has to be done,” he said. “That’s why we’re calling it First Step, because we have no illusions about our program as a permanent solution to anything, but it is a transition. … Life gets very much better for them.”
For more information about First Step or Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, contact Wood at [email protected] or 541-991-8208.
“This is where you can say you have a project, and make it happen,” Spencer said. “That is really the magical piece of our Vision. We’re at this amazing spot where we’re making differences in so many ways.”
Vision Keepers also presented on the new community calendar, available online at RiverCal.org. This website also hosts information on the entire Siuslaw Vision 2025.
In addition, people may also apply for the three Siuslaw Vision paid positions. Final proposals are due by 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018.
Vision Co-Chair Jo Beaudreau ended the meeting.
“You guys are really the people who make a difference,” she said to attendees, and all the people who attended forums, joined a committee or took a survey. “Keep up the amazing work. You’re doing it today, you’re going to do it tomorrow and truly you’re making the Siuslaw region a community.”