By Susi Acord, Media & Communications Director
On a phone call with Mom one day, she said, “Rural Action is looking for AmeriCorps members. Why don’t you check them out?” I zeroed in on the Sustainable Forestry position – Rural Action was looking for someone to help landowners sustainably manage their woods, build managed forest carbon offsets programming, help improve markets for forest products and create sustainable livelihoods in the forest products industry across Central Appalachia; Wow, I thought!
That phone call happened back in 2008 as I was finishing up coursework at DePaul University and hoping to move closer to family here in Ohio. What luck to find Rural Action working right in the community where my Mom lived. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to swing moving from a corporate job in Chicago to earning the very modest living stipend that National Service members receive during their year of service, but after thinking it over and deciding I wouldn’t have another opportunity like this I went for it. I have never regretted that decision.
Fast forward 13 years and the initial awe that I felt for Rural Action – the breadth and depth of our programs, the creativity of our staff, and connection to the communities we work in has never gone away. Under the leadership of Debbie Phillips and Michelle Decker before her, the organization has grown exponentially. We have doubled our programming as well as the staff to support the work, we have added 5 social enterprises under our umbrella, more than tripled the number of members serving in our National Service program – our true boots on the ground, and we have created very real and lasting change in the region.
It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of this work and to “grow up” with the organization. I have now been a part of the Rural Action community for a third of my life and I am proud of all that we have accomplished together – the staff, the Board, National Service members, our partners, and you – our members.
One of the greatest parts of my job has been to help tell the stories of Rural Action keeping people updated and connected and building support for the work. Over the past couple of years, I began thinking I would like to focus more on the development side, cultivating support for the work.
For some time, I have also been thinking about relocating to Maine which has been my second home for nearly 30 years, and where I would be able to spend more time with my family living there, including my Dad who is in his 70’s.
A wonderful opportunity came up to serve as the Development Coordinator with the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. Schoodic Institute is a non-profit partner of the National Park Service and center for inspiring science, learning, and community for a changing world.
The Institute helps resource managers at the Park understand the changes taking place as we experience a rapidly changing environment in the face of climate change. They also work in collaboration with the Park to communicate the research and science taking place at Acadia and offer opportunities for visitors and school children to participate in science at the Park. Schoodic is doing some pretty amazing work locally and as the Nation’s largest Research Learning Center, they are also working with the National Park Service to build Science Communication programming throughout the Park system. I am excited for the new role and the opportunity to work at one of the most beautiful and visited parks in the United States.
In closing, I would like to say thank you for all of the great times and memories we have shared for your continued support of Rural Action. We’ve done a lot together. For now, take care everybody and I’ll see you around when I’m back visiting my family here in Ohio. If you’d like to stay in touch, please feel free to email me.