Rural Outreach Update

By Ken Hood, Rural Organizer

Below is a short update from our new Rural Outreach Team, and you can learn more about these new staff, Ken Hood and Kari Allen, in their bios at the end.

First off…THANK you! I know that many of our members were active as volunteer canvassers either for our project or for other great causes. Every vote mattered in the 2022 election. Our members contributed by making calls, knocking on doors, encouraging friends to vote, and donating the resources and materials needed.

This fall JONAH has been focused on talking with our rural and small-town neighbors across three counties. We practiced compassionate curiosity and deep listening. At every door we knocked, we spread a message of hope and encouraged people to vote. From Oct 1 to Nov 8 we knocked on 106 doors. We canvassed a total of 23 residents of Jim Falls. We did this with a small team of myself, Lynn Buske, and five volunteers who took shifts. A special thank you to those who joined us at the doors. Most of the people we spoke with were glad that we reached out to talk and to hear their concerns. We asked people what issue residents were most concerned about. The top issue was Education and second to that was Child Care. Even though the election is over, we will continue our canvassing efforts and data collection. This information will equip us so that we can plan future organizing efforts.

For the other half of this project, Kari Allen has been focusing on our outreach to churches and religious leaders in the rural areas of Dunn, Eau Claire, and Chippewa counties. So far, she has been able to listen and learn from religious leaders in 9 different congregations and communities to further understand the issues that impact the Chippewa Valley and start to see the patterns and commonalities that connect these areas. 

Many of these religious leaders have indicated optimism around communities being very willing to support the shared largest issue of child poverty. Additionally, these leaders have indicated that a significant area of concern affecting multiple communities has been substance misuse, specifically with meth. 

We are also very encouraged to partner with several organizations, as we know that caring for communities is not something we can do alone. Through these partnerships, we hope to continue learning individual stories and how best to empower connections in and amongst these rural communities.

If you have questions about this project, or if you want to be involved in some way, please reach out to me at [email protected]. Or, if you know of congregations and leaders looking to start a faith-based conversation on caring for their community, please contact Kari at [email protected]. Either of us would be happy to schedule a one-on-one meeting with you.

Ken Hood, Rural Organizer

Ken Hood is a Rural Outreach Organizer for JONAH. He focuses on volunteer recruitment and training for telephone and door-to-door canvassing efforts. In 2020 he discovered a passion for community organizing and social justice advocacy. Ken graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire with an undergraduate degree in teaching English for Secondary Education. Ken has experience speaking and serving as a lay leader in Baptist churches and later in Unitarian Universalist congregations in the north woods of Wisconsin.

Kari Allen, Rural Organizer

Kari Allen is a Rural Outreach Organizer for JONAH and a deacon in the ELCA who is focusing on congregational outreach and religious leader engagement. Having grown up on a sheep farm in South Dakota, she hopes to convey an authentic understanding of the value and gifts all people bring to caring for their rural communities. She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead with an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and has recently finished her Master’s in Diaconal Ministry from Wartburg Theological Seminary.