We are a growing endeavor that evolved from discussions in 2014 among a small group of individuals considering ways to build community and revitalize the economy of the very rural northwest corner of Stokes County, North Carolina. From the start, the group set about crafting an original development approach, one that would be community-driven (not just community-based) inclusive, responsive and action-focused. Our short and long-term goals are the consequence of a series of community meetings and center on strengthening community well-being through support of education, agriculture, small businesses, recreation, the arts, and other needs as they evolve. The name Our Communities of Northwest Stokes reflects our vision and primary mission: strong communities in northwest Stokes. Based in the tiny unincorporated hamlet of Francisco, population approximately 500, our active volunteer base is approximately 50 and always expanding. The impact of our work extends throughout the county.
The public school in Francisco provided a major focal point for this area over many decades. However, the consideration (and ultimate reality) of closing (in 2015) the Francisco Elementary School by the Stokes County Board of Commissioners was a potential setback for the community. The Our Communities initiative organized community discussions on potentially keeping the school open or repurposing the school building facilities in ways that would enhance the community. The eventual purchase of the school buildings and grounds by Chestnut Street Investments LLC led to the creation of a new industry and jobs for the area.
Closing of the School also led to a remarkably successful new event for NW Stokes County. With the idea of organizing a local event that brings our community together, a festival called Francisco Farmfest was organized and occurred for the first time in the fall of 2016. This now annual event occurs for the fourth time on September 21, 2019. This jewel of a festival highlights the homegrown and handmade and celebrates local people and traditions. A tractor parade, a local vendor alley, food, music, demonstrations, games, and other activities make this a fun and educational day. An exciting addition to this year’s festival is provided by Rex McGee and Stokes County Arts—youth and Stokes musical heritage will be the focus of the Junior Mountain Music Tent. Workshops and jam sessions with banjos, fiddles, and guitars will occur free of charge for youth ages 2-18. Proceeds from Farmfest support a variety of local activities including a small grant program, the Northern Stokes Food Pantry, the Ruritan Scholarship Fund, and enhancement of arts for school-age children of NW Stokes County.
Our Non-profit Foundation
Community members agreed that a non-profit organization was needed to facilitate fund-raising and the management of our initiative. However, we concluded it was important that the Our Communities initiative not become a non-profit because the rules and structural requirements for non-profits might weaken the essential all-inclusive, flexible principles underpinning it. Therefore, instead of becoming a foundation, we decided to create one. The Our Communities of Northwest Stokes Foundation was incorporated by the state of North Carolina and approved by the IRS in 2016.
Improve local services
Promote education and technology
Sponsor music and initiatives in the arts
Create a business-friendly environment
Conserve our natural, historical, and cultural assets
Increase community involvement and inclusion
Leading a community-driven development process
Creating opportunities for civic engagement and education
Raising funds for local organizations and projects
Advocating for NW Stokes communities and residents
Teaching classes and workshops
Documenting and preserving local music and history
Managing the only non-profit foundation in our area
Working with providers to expand broadband internet access
Offering project management and support services
Community… Webster defines this as a unified body of individuals such as the people with common interests living in a particular area. That's only partly true. The Communities Group is indeed a group of people with a common interest, building stronger, better and healthier communities. But each individual is different. Each person has a gift, a talent, and a dream. It's when each of these individuals of this unified body share each of their ideas, that's when things, good things start to happen. - Sylvia Burton