The South Campbell County Rotary Club hosted ambassadors from the USDA Rural Development on Tuesday during its weekly meeting. Pictured from left to right is South Campbell County Rotary Club president Rayma Daugherty, Marisol Torres, Area Director for Rural Development, Arlisa Armstrong, Tennessee State Director for USDA Rural Development, and County Mayor E.L. Morton.

By Charlotte Underwood

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Ambassadors from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development department gave a brief presentation at the South Campbell County Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday. 

The goal of the visit was to reach out to local communities in rural areas to discuss Rural Development programs and services available to the area and what challenges Campbell County may face.  The visit is part of the USDA’s “Equity Project” which is about identifying barriers to connect rural areas with state and federal resources. Ten counties were selected for the “Equity Project” and nine of those counties are in East Tennessee.

The meeting consisted of identifying positives of the area, as well as struggles.

Arlisa Armstrong with USDA Rural Development spoke briefly about the Equity Project at the South Campbell County Rotary Club meeting.

Positives identified within Campbell County included “the people”, “pride in our local history”, a slew of natural resources, local entrepreneurs and many others.

Struggles faced by communities, according to local Rotarians include: drug and poverty issues, the need for a Boys and Girls Club, entertainment for young people, lack of a homeless shelter, the need for rural clean drinking water and rural broadband. The “priority” issue identified was that Campbell County has one of the highest numbers of opioids and drug use. 

Other issues identified included the need to access mental health counseling, as well as the need for a mental health institute for our area. 

USDA Tennessee State Director Arlisa Armstrong said the goal was to”understand how Rural Development could assist Campbell County, as well as help find other agencies to assist as well.”

USDA Rural Development Area Director Marisol Torres guest spoke at the South Campbell County Rotary meeting Tuesday. The program was about the “Equity Project” and connecting rural areas with state and federal services.

According to Rural Development Area Director Marisol Torres, this visit is the first of many as part of the USDA’s “Equity Project” which seeks to match state and federal resources to local rural needs. 

“We want to know what are your needs and what are your barriers to meeting those needs,” Torres said. 

According to Torres and Armstrong, the pair would be visiting with Campbell County leaders again in the future, along with other state and federal agencies to “help with identifying priories and finding resources for help.”

For more information about the USDA’S Rural Development Equity Project, visit HERE. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 03/23/2022-6AM)