L-R: Greg Chaille, Kris Anderson, Rob Esterlein, Jim Walls, Mary Ferrell

L-R: Greg Chaille, Kris Anderson, Rob Esterlein, Jim Walls, Mary Ferrell

The folks of Medford are always hospitable, but they exceeded themselves this past week. The Oregon Community Foundation held a fabulous reception for the book, and Jackson County Library Services threw open the doors to their Medford branch, hosting us for a fascinating panel discussion featuring Jim Walls of Lake County Resource Initiative (LCRI) in Lakeview, Mary Ferrell of Medford’s Maslow Project, and Rob Esterlein, of the Southern Oregon Historical Society (SOHS).

We assembled the panel with an eye to sector diversity: each of these organizations represent very different corners of the nonprofit world. As most Medford residents will know, the Maslow Project provides wraparound services–everything from clothes to ID cards to student support and housing–to homeless children and their families. Mary spoke about Maslow’s successes, the generosity of the local community, and its continued needs for funding, donated goods, volunteers, and community advocates.

Jim Walls discussed Lake County Resource Initiative‘s varied initiatives in Lake County. They’ve done remarkable work: primarily a renewable energy advocacy organization, they have successfully installed extensive solar arrays and converted many of Lakeview’s public buildings to operate on geothermal power. They have also worked with the Collins Companies and other forest products stakeholders to advance sustainable forestry practices and harvesting techniques, and to use timber byproducts and waste to produce biomass energy. They have also helped bring higher education back to Lakeview: students can now get associates degrees and bachelors degrees without leaving their hometown, thanks to a partnership with Oregon State University. And LCRI has placed Lake County on course to become the first carbon neutral county in America, a goal that they will reach very soon.

Finally, we heard from Rob Esterlein, of the Southern Oregon Historical Society. In existence since the 1940s, SOHS is today a shell of what it was: from the 1990s onwards, its public funding has dropped precipitously to zero now, which means its had to relinquish its museums and most of its historical properties. Its extensive and valuable collection, boasting well over a million treasures of regional history, now languish in a climate controlled warehouse: they have no museum in which to display them, thus leaving the community disconnected from its past and its place. They still have Hanley Farm, a beautiful 19th century working farm and historical property, and their archives are extensive and open to the public. They also display much of their museum collection online–a terrific resource for those of us who believe that history is central to community building and to self-belonging. But to have collection of such value unavailable for the public to view and experience in person is a great tragedy, and SOHS deserves to have its public funding restored as well as its ranks of private donors and volunteers grow. Unfortunately, it’s hard to grow a donor and volunteer base without having a museum with which to attract and educate them, so SOHS needs all of the help it can get. Go visit Hanley farm, help SOHS find the volunteers and donors it deserves, and help it bring southern Oregon’s long and varied history back to life.