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Organizing the Applegate

A two-year, $225,000 grant will allow A Greater Applegate to further community building efforts that already have produced a new website, Applegate Valley Connect, and a nonprofit support network during the past year.

The Ford Institute, part of the Ford Family Foundation, made the award earlier this year after giving the group $61,000 for 2018. That grant came at a turning point for what was formerly named Greater Applegate Community Development Corp. as it transitioned from 20 years of running Cantrall-Buckley Park, which reverted to Jackson County management.

“What we are doing this year and the next year is to make sure we connect with everyone who lives in or works in or serves the Applegate Valley,” said Brooke Nuckles Gentekos, group development director. “We want to create a vision and a plan for the next five to 10 years. We are going to go where people are in their neighborhoods. We’ll hold public meetings.”

While it looks to the future, A Greater Applegate will also launch a business network in the valley to get business owners together for their mutual benefit. They’ll also look at emergency response plans in the various areas and how people communicate within their neighborhoods as part of outreach efforts.

The new funding allows Gentekos to be hired for 10 hours per week. She served as the paid, 10-hour-per-week project coordinator last year and had volunteered with the nonprofit group for five years.

A new project coordinator, Rhianna Simes, will work 10 to 20 hours per week. In addition, the organization will seek an intern from AmeriCorps Resource Assistance for Rural Environments to start work this summer.

The Applegate, as defined by the group, stretches from Wonder in Josephine County to Sterling Creek in Jackson County and includes all tributaries of the Applegate River. The group has identified 13 different neighborhoods.

Ruch Community Store co-owner Craig Hamm thinks there might be as many as 50,000 people living in the Applegate. When he did studies before opening his store 21 years ago, he calculated, based on postal routes, that there were then about 21,000 people living in the Applegate areas of Jackson County alone.

Surveys and asset mapping will be done by A Greater Applegate in the neighborhoods this summer to determine needs and what is working.

The new Applegate Nonprofit Network includes about 45 organizations that will meet three times per year. They can be based in the Applegate Valley or do work that affects the area, said Gentekos. Among members are Pacifica: A Garden in the Siskiyous, McKee Bridge Historical Society, Sanctuary One, Applegate Food Pantry and the Applegate Partnership & Watershed Council. Discussions about a space where nonprofits could access equipment or assistance are just in the preliminary stages, said Gentekos.

A core team is already in place to launch the initial meeting of the business network in May.

“All these projects are community driven,” said Gentekos. “The direction is up to the nonprofits and the business owners.”

Hamm is looking forward to the business network. He was previously a board member of the group.

“When you network with different businesses it’s like having a district manager come into your store,” said Hamm. “You get a lot of new ideas.”

Branding of the Applegate to promote tourism and business is another long-range goal for the organization. But the group will look to business leaders to determine what they want for those efforts, said Gentekos. Groups such as the Applegate Valley Oregon Vintners Association and the Southern Oregon Lavender Trail are examples of strong branding efforts already in the valley, Gentekos said.

The group will still play a role in Cantrall-Buckley, focusing on park improvements such as getting an art in the park walk and removing invasive species rather than management.

Website links are www.applegateconnect.org and agreaterapplegate.org.

Reach freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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