Historically my foundation has allowed the community to guide us. Based on our size, it would be difficult for the foundation to make a big difference on any one issue; our strengths are in our civility, consultation, and methods of communication. We would continue to focus on supporting community needs through our face-to-face efforts.

So building upon this philosophy, it made great sense for me to embark upon a listening tour as one of my many “sabbatical” priorities. This listening tour would focus on our rural communities.

It began with the review of needs assessments (e.g., county, health, Head Start) and other pertinent literature (e.g., cultural plans) in a specific rural county, and the publishers’ follow-up recommendations. This review would inform the listening tour that I hoped would provide me the opportunity to hear first-hand testimonials on the different challenges and opportunities in our targeted geographical region. I wanted to understand where there had been progress and what opportunities we could avail, and where the barriers were so great that it may not be prudent for us to pursue.

For now, I believe I may have discovered the answer to my own question to my colleagues about devoting time and attention to mission. I have been so entirely energized by my “mission sabbatical,” and the quality of my work has been impacted positively as well. I am thankful for my board of trustees, who have provided me with this unique opportunity to step back, listen, learn, and grow, and to my colleagues, who inspired me to ask the question to begin with!

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