Our Communities of Northwest Stokes

Our Communities of Northwest Stokes is a rural development initiative dedicated to revitalizing our area and creating partnerships and programs that benefit the county. It is a community-built, community-driven, and all-volunteer effort. Our Communities of NW Stokes Foundation is a non-profit (501c3) organization created in 2015 to support this work and assist in funding projects in the region.  

Current board member are Paul Blue, Texie Jessup, Bill Hart

and JaneBowman

  Celebrating Cultural traditions

        Growing Community

    Our Communities is future-focused. It is how people in our    area come together to work on building a brighter future for  NW Stokes.


    A Brief History


  The initiative evolved from a series of locally produced forums held

in 2014. At that time decades-long decline and dwindling government

investment in our localities had reached a crisis point.  The

initiative gained urgency and momentum after the area’s elementary

school—the heart and center of our communities--was closed in 2015.


  At that point, the death of all the villages in the very rural

northwest—former tobacco country---seemed to be a forgone and widely

accepted conclusion in most of the county. However local

folks---renowned for their self-reliance and resilience---disagreed

and a large group decided to test the idea that ordinary people, even

in tiny farm villages, could shape and drive their own development

from the grassroots up, relying on themselves initially and not

outside resources. Finding no models that seemed to fit our size,

circumstances and needs, the group set about crafting its own original

development approach, one that is community-driven (not just

community-based) all-inclusive, responsive and action-focused. The

main challenge was/and is building local capacity. The work involves

outreach, skills-building, community-learning and engagement. (For

more about the initiative and our experiment see the Foundations page)


    Current objectives of the initiative


  Improve local services


  Promote education and technology


  Create a business-friendly environment


  Conserve our natural, historical, and cultural assets


  Integrate the arts into community life and development


  Increase community involvement and inclusion




   Some of our activities:


  Organizing and presenting an annual FarmFest


  Leading a community-driven planning and development process


  Creating opportunities for civic engagement and education


  Raising funds for local organizations and projects


  Teaching classes and workshops


  Sponsoring music events


  Leading arts initiatives


  Documenting and preserving local music and history


  Partnering with providers to expand broadband internet access


  Maintaining and expanding community outreach and information tools


  Building partnerships with other agencies and organizations


    Our Communities in 2020


  Over the past 5 years, Our Communities has built the capacity to take

on some big projects. We now have a core volunteer base over more than

50 people, and a record of progress. In 2020 we will be continuing our

planning and development process. Over the next two-years, Francisco

residents of all ages will participate in putting together a 15-year

comprehensive development plan and designing a 21st century village. A

store, a park and a walking trail, will be part of this design. A

campaign to attract a store is underway and preliminary work has been

done for both the park and the walking trail.


    These projects focus on three priority needs:


    1.  an environment that and supports “community”.


    2.  a solution to the food desert problem.


    3.  next-generation community leaders 


  Our Communities invites anyone interested in this work to join us. Our

hope is that the lessons learned here will benefit other under-served

and marginalized communities.