Ford Institute offers free training to Estacada residents.

Like everywhere across the country, the tough economy has been a burden on Estacada, but fortunately there are people in town doing something about it. This fall, a group of community leaders will go through the Ford Institute Leadership Program, which aims to revitalize rural communities through educating and motivating local leaders.

The Ford Institute is funded completely by the Ford Family Foundation, which was founded by Kenneth W. Ford and his wife Hallie E. Ford. The Ford family rose to prominence in the 20th century when their company, Roseburg Forest Products Co. grew to become one of the largest family-owned wood product manufacturers in the nation.

The goal of the foundation was to give back to the timber communities in Oregon, and over the years it has grown significantly in both size and scope.

The Leadership Program is one of their largest community initiatives, and every spring the institute selects four new rural communities to participate in the program.

In 2010, the Estacada Community Foundation applied for the program on behalf of the Estacada community and was invited to participate. The classes begin this fall, and will run for the next five years with some classes being repeated to draw in as many local participants as possible.

'This whole program is based on the belief that vital rural communities develop from a broad base of knowledgeable, skilled and motivated leaders, a diversity of effective organizations, and productive collaboration among organizations,' Lisa Brookshier, board chair for the Estacada Community Foundation, said.

All of the classes that are provided will take place in Estacada, and the Institute covers the cost of the program as well as all of the materials including food and beverage. All participants are asked to provide is their own transportation to and from the event.

The first class that is being provided is 'Leadership Development Training,' which consists of 48 class hours held over four Friday-Saturday sessions. The focus is on developing the leadership capacity of individuals within the community, and includes a class project that they all work on together. In order to fund the project, the Institute provides up to a $5,000 match in support of the project.

The first session for this class took place on Sept. 9-10 and will continue Oct. 7-8.

This class is re-offered for a new batch of participants in the third and fifth year of the program.

In year two of the program, participants will learn about 'Effective Organizations' and in year four they will learn about 'Community Collaborations.'

This year, 25 local leaders and community members are participating in the class.

For anyone interested in applying for a future class, they can go to to receive registration information. While the program encourages people to take as many classes as possible, the 'Leadership Development Training' class is offered three times.

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