building sustainable communities
Owsley County, located in the hills of eastern Kentucky, is one of the poorest counties in the nation. But a diverse group of citizens has been working to change that. The Owsley County Action Team formed in 1992 because, according to one Action Team member, "We got tired of 'being helped' and decided to help ourselves." This "can do" attitude has characterized the Action Team from the beginning.
The Owsley Action Team was the prototype for the sustainable development Action Teams that were promoted as part of MACED's Sustainable Communities Initiative which was active through the 1990s. This Initiative launched Action Teams in many other mountain communities including Letcher, Breathitt and Wolf. MACED supported staff, provided training and worked to identify other ways to strengthen the growth of locally owned community development organizations in the region.
The Owsley County Action Team's mission is "to provide leadership to enable citizens to achieve self-empowerment, sustainable community development and an enriched quality of life." When the Owsley County group learned of MACED's Initiative, they asked to be included as one of the pilot counties.
Action Team members started a Goat Producers Association, a Vegetable Producers Association and an education foundation called the Owsley County Fund for Excellence. They revived the Booneville/Owsley County Industrial Authority; assisted in funding a downtown development office which is currently establishing a Chamber of Commerce; and established a Business Mentoring Network.
Danny Barrett, an Action Team volunteer, said, "We know healthy and prosperous communities do not just happen. We are determining what kind of community our grandchildren will inherit by the choices we make today and that's something many of us take very seriously."