Rural communities across Montana are grappling with ideas and solutions for keeping their local communities’ great places to live, work and raise a family. The City of Shelby and Sunburst Community Foundationare excited to be offering a series of virtual statewide gatherings called Reimagining Rural that is designed to bring people together who are passionate about creating vibrant, robust rural places, growing local capacity and who are eager to learn, connect and lead local change.

The series includes three statewide virtual sessions for rural communities across Montana to come together to have a conversation focused on building a positive future for our small towns.  

“We are excited to bring these great speakers to Montana,” said Tara Mastel, Community Development Program Leader for Montana State University Extension. “Community members will learn some great ideas for making the most of changes that are facing our rural communities today.”  

Each session includes a speaker followed with a guided local discussion centered on developing and incorporating fresh ideas in our communities. Featured speakers include Ben Winchester of the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality. Winchester will share his “brain gain” research that counters negativity common in current discussions of rural communities. Deb Brown and Becky McCray, co-founders of Save Your Town, will kick-off the second session with an invigorating interactive discussion on becoming an “idea friendly” community. Becky and Deb are small town natives and passionate about the future of rural. The last session will bring back these presenters for follow up, question and answer and discussion about ideas for potential projects.  

Recognizing the importance of our small towns across Montana, Reimagining Rural represents a unique collaboration of statewide organizations whose work focuses on rural development. MSU Extension, the Burton K. Wheeler Center, Montana Community Foundation and the Montana Governor’s Rural Partners Main Street Program are joining forces to really focus on building up our rural communities and this series is one of their efforts.

The sessions are set for Sept. 15 and 29 and the last session will take place Oct. 13. Each one runs from 6-8 p.m. Community members interested in joining this great statewide discussion can participate by joining the City of Shelby and Sunburst Community Foundation at the Comfort Inn conference room. 

For more information contact Lorette Carter, Community Development Director, City of Shelby, 434-5222 or email shbcdc@3rivers.net.

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