The history of Rural Resources Community Action
When a small group of Northeast Washington community members got together in Newport back in 1965 to talk about local implementation of President Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act, many of them weren’t quite sure what all the fuss was about.
But one person knew. He was school teacher Al Six. “It was all about helping people,” he recalls.
Al was there that day – at the “birth” of the new Community Action Agency called Rural Resources – and then served on the Board of Directors for four decades.
From its earliest days in Newport, Rural Resources soon moved its main office to Colville in order to more centrally serve its three-county area. In the mid-1960s, jobs were plentiful in Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties. The timber industry was booming and the small population of eager workers found plenty to do.
Still, there were people in need – most of them children and the elderly. And Rural Resources set about helping them, offering a hand-up to families often too proud for just a hand-out.
Over the years, opportunities for education increased. Young people left the towns where their families had lived for generations. Jobs dwindled and unemployment in Northeast Washington counties grew to consistently rank among the highest in the state. Through good times and bad, Rural Resources changed to meet emerging needs while staying true to its core mission.
Al says the biggest change he’s seen is that “we’ve grown and can offer a lot more people the help that they need.”
That’s especially true since Rural Resources came to serve Lincoln County in 2010.
“It was a milestone – the first time we’ve expanded our core territory since 1965,” said former Executive Director Barry Lamont, who joined the agency 20 years ago.
Other major changes? Rural Resources assumed greater responsibilities for employment programs and job training, opened Head Start schools, added transportation services, and developed housing for low-income families, seniors and the disabled. The Family Support Center was created to serve victims of domestic violence, child sexual abuse and other crimes.
In the future, Barry says he hopes the agency can help lead economic development efforts to actually help create more jobs for the area.
“The needs continue, they don’t abate,” he concludes. “People need a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs and a living wage to pay for it. Rural Resources will always be here – neighbors helping neighbors.”