The question: Do the people living between Sandy and Government Camp want to develop leaders?

A gift awaits the rural communities between Sandy and Government Camp.

Worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the gift is more like a long-term investment to ensure the development of leadership among local residents.

The gift is from the Ford Family Foundation, the second largest foundation in Oregon.

A meeting to explain the five-year program has been scheduled from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at the Mt. Hood Lions Club near Highway 26 and Woodsey Way in Welches. Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m.

The gift is called The Ford Institute Leadership Program, and since 2003 it has nearly covered the state, assisting more than 70 rural communities. In this program, 'rural' means fewer than 30,000 population and not adjacent to a metro area.

'We're giving to every community in rural Oregon and Siskiyou County, California five years of free in-community leadership and organizational development,' said Heidi Khokhar, trainer for the informational session in Welches.

The leadership training is being delivered by Rural Development Initiatives, a nonprofit organization that employs Khokhar.

The meeting in Welches will be informative for attendees as well as for RDI personnel, who must learn how best to help local leaders and potential leaders.

'We're looking at your communities,' Khokhar said, 'and we're saying, 'we'd like to choose them to be part of the Ford leadership program and start this five-year journey with us, but we need to introduce ourselves to the community, tell what the program is about and what investment must come from the community.'

The program is free, Khokhar emphasized, but she said she needs to see 'the community's buy-in and support.'

'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,' she said, 'and we hope they make the most of it.'

This leadership program is not focused on any problems or flaws that might exist in any community, she said. Instead, it focuses on the positive side - identifying a community's strengths to develop needed leadership.

Among the leadership roles Khokhar gave as examples are volunteers, board members, project organizers and servants of youths.

'When you get into our five-year program,' Khokhar said, 'classes are open to people as young as 14, and the oldest we have in right now is 86.'

Members of the classes in the 50 communities RDI is assisting now include about 20 percent youths, 20 percent existing leaders - who serve as mentors - and 60 percent emerging leaders.

The program in Welches Nov. 18 is an introduction, Khokhar said, and she wants to see people there who could be called 'key connectors,' people who can leverage the community's resources.

Khokhar called the meeting a 'work session,' referring to its length.

'There is a lot of work that has to be done to get ourselves ready,' she said.

'This is a huge commitment by the Ford Family Foundation. Over the five years and throughout the lifetime of your relationship with them, they'll invest millions of dollars in your community. They want to make sure you're ready, and they're sending me to help you get ready.'

To register for the Nov. 18 work session, call Cindy Brunson at RDI, 1-541-684-9077, ext. 1, and ask for an application to Leadership in Action, Sandy to Government Camp. By email, write the subject line 'LiA Sandy to Gvt. Camp' and send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Brunson must receive return registration forms by 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 14.

For more information, contact Khokhar by calling 541-968-2542 or send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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