Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Movement and Change

When I was in Arco, ID, a participant enthusiastically gave me a Horizons brochure from the Northwest Area Foundation, a foundation that I’ve seen making some great progress in a number of towns along the northern tier of states.

I loved the opening shot from Horizons:

From waiting to leading…from talk to action…from poverty to prosperity…from a few to many…from despair to hope…from indifference to pride.

Horizons is a visioning and action plan on how communities in the eight states that it serves can take proactive steps to reduce poverty and help to build the type of community that they want to live in. To participate, towns must be less than 5,000 in population; have a poverty rate above 10%; and be broad based in the community.

This wasn’t my first view of the programs of the Northwest Area Foundation, a foundation set up in 1934 by the son of James J. Hill who was known as the “Empire Builder” for what he accomplished in setting up the Great Northern Railroad. The Foundation serves the eight states that the railroad crossed (MN, IA, ND, SD, MT, ID, OR, and WA). Last year the foundation gave out $24 million from an asset base of $465 million.

One of the very innovative parts of the Horizons program is their blogs from the towns that they are working with. You can see their blogs here. Check out places like Cando, ND (a shout-out to my favorite named town!) which talks about their farmers market, children’s summer theater and parades.

I love researching people like James J. Hill who was a farm boy from Ontario who wanted to be a sea captain. He arrived in St. Paul, MN but missed the last ox-cart caravan of the season heading for the west coast in July, 1856. He got a job for the winter as a shipping clerk at a steamboat company, never leaving. From very modest railroad endeavors he assembled The Great Northern Railroad in 1889 which stretched from St. Paul to Seattle, the northernmost railway in the USA. His fiscal conservatism allowed the railroad to escape being one of the few to not go bankrupt in the general Panic of 1893.

Today, the Northwest Area Foundation is still doing good and giving back to the region that helped it achieve success.

1 comment:

Susan Buckles said...

Hi Jack,

Thank you for your mention of the Horizons program. To learn more, you can visit us at http://www.nwaf.org
Since 2003, nearly 200 communities have completed the 18-month community leadership program aimed at reducing poverty. Since that time, more than 40,000 people have developed a better understanding of poverty and its causes. As many as 105 new communities in seven states will participate in Horizons III, the third round of Horizons supported by a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation, which begins this fall. If you'd like to write about any of our other programs, you can contact me at sbuckles@nwaf.org. Regards, Susan Buckles, APR, public relations specialist, Northwest Area Foundation.