I hate snakes.
In my recent vacation to Eastern Oregon, where I would have expected to see at least one, I did not. So, imagine my distress last Friday when I walked nonchalantly out to my garage to put my reusable grocery bags back in the truck and stepped on a garden snake in route. Like, in my garage!
And if ever I did an unexpected jig and hollered a war cry – I did so to the fullest extent in that moment! My son came hobbling out on his crutches to see what the commotion was all about and find me frozen in place. And thus ensued the search for said snake, as he carefully lifted up the empty grocery bags I had dropped with his crutch. I did not imagine it. Despite my serious pondering as to whether “snakes can climb shelves”, the extensive search was of no avail.
And now I am convinced it is hiding in the cool dark narrow space behind the shelving unit, lurking. I do not plan to prod and poke for the evil serpent but know this; I am peering intently through the window before opening the door. Every. Single. Time.
Sometimes you just roll with unexpected moments and other times you cling to the few things that are certain: like sunsets and sunrises.
There is nothing like a spectacular sunset to put the finishing touches on a great day. Or even a long hard day (week or year). Either way, it is a predictable daily occurrence - a welcomed certainty. Regardless of how the day might have went, isn’t it comforting to know that every day offers another fresh start?
Another SOREDI year sunset on June 30 with our Reunite and Revitalize annual event. Staff put together an incredible gathering and pivoted in less than 24 hours to move the event from an outside venue at the Blue Heron Park to a much cooler inside venue at the Phoenix Civic Center.
Over 120 mask-free guests happily arrived via the Jacksonville Trolley, enjoyed phenomenal food truck faire, reconnected, and celebrated a successful year with SOREDI. No one even seemed to notice our worn out, harried appearance after having set up the stage, twenty tables, and over 120 chairs, arranged table décor, set up the dessert bar, ensured electrical access for the food trucks, filled the beverage trough with lots of ice, and so much more!
Just a day or so later I meandered out into the Southern Oregon Siskiyou’s for an overnighter on Big Red Mountain. It was time to decompress a bit after a solid week and an unprecedented year that was filled with uncertainty, difficulty for our business community, fires, and brokenness for so many citizens.
I packed light for the overnight outing. Long distance hikers offer that if you cannot use an item for three different purposes you should reconsider why you insist on packing it. However, it is amazing how much one can unknowingly pack into a backpack that really is not needed – it is just extra weight that slows you down.
While I had selfishly imagined hiking alone, I invited friends to journey with me because some things are just too awe inspiring to keep to oneself. And there is strength in numbers. We trekked a few miles across the side of a mountain on a rocky trail and climbed about 1,000 feet to our destination at 7,000 feet in elevation. Not every journey is smooth and completed without great resolve. A few deeps breaths are needed along the way, as well.
With Big Red’s 360-degree view-from Pilot Rock to Mt. Shasta, the Little Applegate and Rogue Valley, Mt. Mcloughlin and even the rim of Crater Lake, the horizon was reminiscent of looking back over the last 360 plus days of SOREDI’s work. There were significant landmarks that in the end, painted a fabulous finish on SOREDI’s fiscal year.
It was an unexpected, remarkable, record-setting year. Here are a few highlights:
- SOREDI budgeted for a membership revenue decrease of 20%, yet we finished at 115% of budget.
- The agency processed ten enterprise zone applications that promised to retain and create 300 jobs, add $54.59 million in capital investment and contribute over $12 million payroll.
- We lent $1.2 million to 5 new loan clients.
- Staff provided grant administration services resulting in $6.6 million to 468 businesses within all 15 jurisdictions. That is not a typo!
- We responded to a dozen new recruitment leads, with over half coming through in the last three months.
- The agency earned unexpected new revenues exceeding $300,000. Oh, so much better than an unexpected snake!
- We gave back nearly $47,000 to seed our 501c3 SOREDI Foundation, seed our Wildfire Resiliency Fund, and support Foundry Village in Grants Pass.
The year was not without its difficulty. Hardly any need to recap the dire need created by the pandemic and the heartbreak and devastation of the wildfires. And with record heat over the last several weeks, we may face still more hardship. But a new day will dawn, and every sunrise brings bright hope.
While I was carrying a bit more than 25 pounds, a friend was carrying considerably more. She insisted on bringing her very heavy camera and tripod to capture the spectacular sunset, inspiring night sky and sunrise. While I think a lighter, single person tent is now on her new gear wish-list, some sacrifices are certainly worth the wait and outstanding outcome. Thank you, Ashley Brown (night sky photo credit) for staying up late to capture that magnificent Milky Way shot over my tent, while I snuggled inside for a great night’s rest!
Some days you simply need to trek a little higher and reset your vision. Maybe pack your backpack a little lighter, cheerfully endure the rocky path with a smile, and count on a friend to help carry your load or vice versa.
Turns out that Bear Grass, as named by members of the Lewis & Clark expedition is prevalent in Southern Oregon and incredibly hardy. It is a stout and persistent perennial.
Sounds like an agency I am incredibly blessed to serve. Whether good times or bad, this agency is stout and stronger than ever before in its history. It will be persistent in carrying out its charter to help businesses prosper and help Southern Oregon citizens rebound from every unexpected moment and economic downturn.
And while local jurisdictions sort through how new funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will filter down to help businesses, build much-needed infrastructure, and support growing communities, I encourage you to take a hike!
Pack light, share the load, marvel at the sunset and gaze deeply into every night sky wonder. Then get up early for a gloriously bright sunrise. Southern Oregon’s future is still bright.
Colleen Padilla, Executive Director