Roaring Fork Leadership Grows Community and Leaders 2

2017 Civic Projects Announced

Each year, the Roaring Fork Leadership (RFL) program adopts civic projects that strengthen communities all up and down the Roaring Fork Valley. RFL is sponsored by the Roaring Fork Center for Community Leadership (RFCCL), and it provides more than 100 hours of training and dialogue designed to enhance personal, professional and community problem-solving and effectiveness. Over the past 28 years, RFL has trained more than 750 leaders; 80 percent of them live here in the Roaring Fork Valley.

During the 10-month RFL program, each annual class of about 40 students divides into 6-to-8 person teams that take on civic projects. “These projects provide an opportunity for a real community change initiatives that need leadership input, direction and recommendations,” explains Andrea Palm-Porter, RFCCL executive director. “What is really neat is that we get to partner with area organizations that allow the teams to apply what they are learning while creating an impact through what we call a ‘community return on investment’.”

This year’s civic projects were chosen this past November. One of them is Project PACK (Providing A Crisis Kit), which provides necessary personal items for children who cannot return home in a family crisis. “We are thrilled that a civic project team [from RFL] picked Project PACK to expand from Garfield into Pitkin County,” said Amber Wissing, Project PACK’s founder. “RFL is an incredible resource for us since we’re a small, volunteer-based, grassroots program. The sheer caliber of talent and the passion of RFL’s participants simply cannot be bought.”

RFL will also be recruiting 75 English language tutors. “As a small organization, I deeply appreciate having an RFL team working to help English In Action recruit more tutors over the year to come,” said English in Action’s Executive Director Lara Beaulieu. “English In Action has more than 100 adult students waiting for a tutor. The RFL team will allow us to capitalize on the deep desire by many in the valley to help immigrants feel included and supported in our community.”

Parents of disabled children will also benefit. One of RFL’s teams plans to raise awareness about the lack of playgrounds for kids who use a wheelchair or live with other handicaps. Right now handicapped kids must travel all the way to Grand Junction or Denver to find an accessible playground! “As a mother of two children with spina bifida, living in a rural place without local access to an accessible playground is difficult to grasp. It’s a law and civil right to have this kind of facility in our community,” commented Kim Cassady, who will be sponsoring the playground project. The accessible playground team plans to create an awareness campaign; its goal will be to summon the public’s will to build one or more universally-accessible playgrounds here in the valley.

Smiling Goat Ranch will also get a helping hand from RFL. Smiling Goat helps children with neuro-sensory issues like autism and ADD, as well veterans with PTSD. Smiling Goat Ranch uses the Horse Boy Method, a scientifically-proven method of gaining communication and re-patterning the brain. One of RFL’s teams will create a strategic plan for the year-old nonprofit. That plan will include housing for college interns pursing equine therapy careers. “We feel fortunate and blessed to have this group of energetic, talented emerging leaders reviewing what we have accomplished in our first year and giving us a fresh perspective,” said Sheryl Barto, Smiling Goat’s executive director. “We desperately need a refined strategic plan. Our group, along with the amazing programming provided by the RFL curriculum, has already brought so much value to the planning process. Can’t wait to see how this unfolds!”

In addition to those projects, the 2017 RFL class will create a local media campaign for 2-1-1, a free, statewide confidential information and referral navigation service that serves 16 Western Slope counties.

Another RFL team will work on identifying resources and strategies for improving the caliber of the Roaring Fork Valley’s next generation of young leaders.