Michelle Rathman, nationally known rural health and community engagement strategist, speaker, and writer, is the new host of Rural Matters, effective September 1, 2018. Her debut episode will release on September 10 and feature guest Alan Morgan, President of the National Rural Health Association.

Rathman replaces Mara Casey Tieken who has been a superb host and an invaluable contributor to Rural Matters, helping the program become the leading podcast in the country focused on expanding the dialogue among stakeholders in the areas of education, health and business in rural communities. Since launching in September 2017, the podcast has reached nearly 5,000 downloads, and has attracted national sponsors such as the American Association of School Administrators (The School Superintendents Association) and the National Rural Education Association, along with marketing partners that include the National Rural Education Association; Center for Rural Affairs; Ohio Small and Rural Collaborative; Foundation for Rural Service; NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association; Harvard Graduate School of Education Rural Educators Alliance; Community Hospital Corporation; and Journal of Research in Rural Education. Rural Matters is available on iTunes. Google Play, and Stitcher.

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Moving to the “Middle of Nowhere” with Matthew Hoagland

Listen to Moving to the “Middle of Nowhere” with Matthew Hoagland

Michelle chats with Matthew Hoagland, the author of “Think Small: A Millennial’s Guide to Building a Meaningful Life in Rural America.”  Hoagland describes how he had set his sights on leading a trendy urban life in Ashville, NC but decidedly to “move to the middle of nowhere,” (Yanceyville, NC), where he works as the Planning Department Director for the Caswell County Planning Department. The book serves as a how-to-guide for millennials on building a meaningful life in rural America, which, in Hoagland’s case, included paying off his entire student dent and buying a house for $39,000. Hoagland describes how he became immersed in local civic issues, and along with his wife, established a meaningful, sustainable, and affordable life they originally thought they would have by living in a bigger city. When you start out in a big city, he says, you often have to begin aa an intern, but in a small town, you can start in a position that can put you in charge of something meaningful in just a couple of years. The book includes a checklist for those thinking of moving to the middle of nowhere.

Angel Flight East’s Rural and Rare Reach Initiative with Jessica Ames

Listen to Angel Flight East’s Rural and Rare Reach Initiative with Jessica Ames

Michelle chats with Jessica Ames, Programs & Events Coordinator at. Angel Flight East, which provides free flights for individuals who need medical treatment far from home, with a footprint in 14 states. The flights are totally paid for by the pilots themselves, Ames says. The passengers do not have to pay for the flights, whether they need five flights a year or dozens of flights. According to Ames, pilots enjoy this volunteer experience because it pairs their passion for flying with being able to meet a distinct need of patients requiring medical attention. She describes how the company developed its Rural and Rare Reach Initiative, funded by the AmerisourceBergen Foundation, in association with State Offices of Rural Health and others in six states: Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Maryland. Ames also describes how her company transported face shields and other PPE to rural hospitals and other health care providers during this pandemic — at no cost. The company resumed flights last month, Ames notes. This episode was sponsored by Angel Flight East,  www.angelflighteast.org.

The Duke Endowment’s Summer Literacy Initiative with Helen Chen, Sharon Locklear, and David Reeves

Listen to The Duke Endowment’s Summer Literacy Initiative with Helen Chen, Sharon Locklear, and David Reeves

In this final episode of our three-part series, Faith-Based Programs and Their Impact on Rural Communities, which we're doing in collaboration with and supported by The Duke Endowment, Michelle chats with three experts about efforts rural churches are making to narrow the academic achievement gap and improve literacy rates for students in rural North Carolina: Dr. Helen Chen, consultant and researcher, Sharon Locklear, Director of the Sandy Plains United Methodist Church Summer Literacy Program in Pembroke, N.C., and David Reeves, Senior Minister at Cullowhee United Methodist Church in Cullowhee, N.C. During summer months, Dr. Chen notes, there is often a dearth of academic enrichment opportunities in rural communities, and literacy programs implemented by rural churches can help ensure that students meet mandatory grade-level literacy requirements and prevent "summer slide." The Duke Endowment’s Rural Church summer literacy initiative, whose roots date back to 2012, provides churches with grants to host six-week reading camps that ,include 90 hours of instruction, coupled with wraparound services, such as breakfast and lunch, transportation, and family engagement activities. Reeves' church hosted its first camp last year, which was extremely successful. It prompted them to continue the camp this year, albeit with a shorter program and a focus on children who did not have access to remote learning, while also adhering to CDC safety recommendations. Dr. Chen points out that the pandemic accentuates the literacy gap in rural communities and necessitated increased virtual learning this summer. Locklear's program, which also began last year and has continued this year, provides Native American students, "who are more tactile learners," with additional hands-on activities, such as magnet boards for sentence structure and poster boards for vocabulary instruction. This episode is sponsored by The Duke Endowment, www.dukeendowment.org.

Filling Gaps during COVID-19 with Heather Kilbourne, Nicole Johnson, and Michelle Osborne

Listen to Filling Gaps during COVID-19 with Heather Kilbourne, Nicole Johnson, and Michelle Osborne

This is the second episode in a new series called Faith-Based Programs and Their Impact on Rural Communities, which we’re doing in collaboration with and supported by The Duke Endowment. This private philanthropic organization serves North Carolina and South Carolina in four distinct grantmaking areas: health care, child & family well-being, higher education, and rural United Methodist churches. Michelle chats with Heather Kilbourne, Program Manager of the Faith in Rural Communities Initiative at the North Carolina Rural Center; Nicole Johnson, Associate Director for the Partners in Health and Wholeness program of the North Carolina Council of Churches; and Michelle Osborne, the Program Manager for Come to the Table, one of many initiatives of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA. Their conversation focuses on how rural congregations are filling gaps in local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and covers a wide range of critical issues, including food systems, public health, and community development. Kilbourne says her program helps churches and other faith communities use their resources to meet the significant needs of residents and that “rural churches thrive when they help their communities thrive.” She also describes how, during COVID-19, churches have purchased meals for community members in need, delivering them directly to residents or via drive-throughs. Johnson says her program assists faith communities in addressing a variety of essential issues, including food security, mental health, and substance abuse, and that faith communities are particularly gifted in “reminding people that they are whole.” She also discusses how her program and local churches have pivoted during the pandemic to offer food drops, deliver COVID-19 kits, and establish testing sites. Osborne describes how her organization works to connect the hunger relief programs of churches to local agriculture to address food security, poverty, and strengthen justice in the state’s food system. She also shares details about a grant program designed to provide churches with funds to purchase food from local farmers and give it to families in need.  The Duke Endowment (http://www.dukeendowment.org) sponsored this episode.

 

The Duke Endowment’s Faith-Based Programs (Part I): Impact of Churches

Listen to The Duke Endowment’s Faith-Based Programs (Part I): Impact of Churches

This is the first episode in a new series, called Faith-Based Programs & Their Impact on Rural Communities, which we’re doing in collaboration with and supported by The Duke Endowment, a private philanthropic organization that serves North Carolina and South Carolina in four distinct grantmaking areas: health care, child & family well-being, higher education, and rural United Methodist churches. Michelle chats with Robb Webb, Director of The Duke Endowment’s Rural Church program area, and with Kristen Richardson-Frick, Associate Director of the Rural Church program area. Webb discusses how churches can be more than just places of worship and instruction. Their physical assets can eventually be used for a variety of purposes, including women’s and children’s shelters, retail spaces such as
church-run coffee shops, and even as commercial kitchens, according to Webb. Richardson-Frick relates how pastors are seeing signs of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic as more worshipers congregate through online platforms than previously gathered in pews on Sunday mornings. She also describes how spiritual leaders have pivoted to offer counseling and other key services online in order to maintain appropriate social distancing. Webb also sees signs of hope. For example, he notes, churches recognized that local farmers needed support as the restaurants they supplied struggled, and so they reached out to buy food from farmers for needy local residents. He also discusses an exciting program called Hope Restorations, in which local ministries help men who have worked through addiction obtain certification and training in construction and who then can work on houses the church buys for needy local residents. This episode is sponsored by The Duke endowment, www.dukeendowment.org