By Jim Misunas
LARNED — After five months, the Larned Chamber of Commerce board of directors has reached an agreement to hire a new Chamber director.
Lauren Long, a past research Vista for ReEngage Omaha (Neb.) has been hired by the Larned chamber board. She will also serve as Pawnee County Economic Development director. She will start her full-time position in August. She replaces Courtland Holman, who left for a position in Dayton, Texas.
The 15 Vistas and one Vista leader serving as part of Re-Engage Omaha aim to alleviate poverty by targeting at-risk youth, ex-offender, and young veteran populations, as well as factors that directly influence those populations, such as education, homelessness and public health.
“I focused on program and research development in an impoverished neighborhood in North Omaha,” Long wrote in a her Internet blog. “I discovered I have a strong interest in community development, so I have decided to further my experience, but in rural communities.”
Some of the Vistas serve as researchers and documentarians. The 15 Vistas are broken into smaller groups to specialize in particular topic areas called Focus Groups.
“My Vista experience has shown me that there are endless opportunities to be explored in this vast world,” Long wrote. “I look forward to learning about community development from the individuals in the neighborhoods and the massive amounts of research data.”
Metropolitan Community College in Omaha hosts Re-Engage Omaha, an AmeriCorps Vista grant funded project that seeks to alleviate poverty through education as well as community and economic development.
Vista members serve primarily by researching national programs, forging community partnerships, conducting needs assessments, building capacity, and planning and implementing programs.
AmeriCorps Vista is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. Founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993, Vista has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 40 years.
Long has recently spent time in Valentine, Neb., and Mullen, Neb. She developed a leadership program for the Sandhills Resource Conversation and Development that addresses the professional needs of Arthur, Grant, Hooker, Keith, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson and Thomas counties.
The Resource Conservation & Development program promotes conservation development and utilization of natural resources; to improve the general level of economic activity; and to enhance the environment and standard of living.
Many RC&D projects focus on the protection and improvement of natural resources or community facilities. Others work on improving a community’s quality of life. Projects are intended to make rural communities more viable places to live.
Long, 23, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in psychology in 2012. She has originally intended to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine, but learned she was more interested in human behavior.
Long is a native of Springfield, Neb. The music video for Lady Gaga’s “You and I” was partially filmed in Springfield, Neb. by Gaga’s long-time collaborator Laurieann Gibson.