Framing Our Community
Purpose Prize Fellow 2008
Reducing rural poverty with “green” jobs that save the national forest.
When Joyce Dearstyne retired in 1995 as a corporate manager and small business owner and moved from New Jersey to Idaho, she did not find the idyllic life of her retirement dreams. Tiny Elk City stands deep in rugged terrain in the Nez Perce National Forest, isolated and poor. In 1999, after leading a community project to teach residents the art of timber framing, Dearstyne realized her new hometown could survive economic hard times if its citizens pulled together. She helped found Framing Our Community to jump-start economic development. Dearstyne has designed an integrated, economic development program that meets the triple bottom line of environmental, economic and social sustainability. The organization launched “Jobs in the Woods” to restore the forest and watershed, remove hazardous debris that acts as tinder in forest fires, and generate raw materials for wholesale and retail products. In 2007, Framing Our Community began a $440,000 project to protect public drinking water and improve wildlife habitat. Framing Our Community measures success through number of acres treated, homes protected from wildfires, improvements to services and amenities in the community, and jobs created. Four new start-up businesses have opened and 34 new jobs have been created. If the group can bring broadband Internet to the community, an entrepreneur plans to build a corporate retreat and vacation hotel. “I am here to serve until the day comes that I have no more to offer.”