On a beautiful late-summer day (Aug. 27), about 40 Foothills Forum supporters and volunteers gathered at the Slate Mills home of Bev Jones and Andy Alexander for the first annual meeting of the organization, following an informal lunch.
The Foothills Forum is a new Rappahannock County nonprofit whose mission encompasses an ongoing effort to enhance the Rappahannock News’ coverage of Rappahannock County’s most pressing issues — as well as sponsor important stories that require time and labor to tell properly.
Larry “Bud” Meyer, Foothill Forum’s board chair, opened the meeting by recognizing the contributions of longtime Rappahannock resident and philanthropic consultant Bill Dietel. “The Foothills Forum was hard to sell and hard to explain at first,” said Meyer, “but because you stepped up as a co-founder and now director emeritus, we have arrived at an astounding place.” Meyer credited Dietel’s involvement and expertise with the organization’s being able to raise more than $100,000 so far in grants, donations and pledges of support.
Among the other accomplishments of Foothills Forum’s first year, Meyer reported on the status of a countywide survey scheduled to be mailed out to 3,000 households later this fall. Being developed with the help of the Center for Survey Research (CSR; at coopercenter.org/csr) at the University of Virginia, the survey is designed to help identify what issues the county’s residents would like to know more about.
In the meantime, said Meyer, the Forum is working on two journalism research projects. “The first concentrates on the county’s comprehensive plan, given its importance to the county,” he said. The research, timed in conjunction with the plan’s regular five-year review, will result in a series of in-depth articles developed by Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi and Dennis Brack, president of Rappahannock Media, which owns the paper.
The second research project “looks at the the county’s nonprofits and volunteer universe in Rappahannock County,” said Meyer. Former longtime Washington Post reporter Caroline Mayer, the first Foothills Forum Fellow, is heading this project, which will also result in a series of articles. She has more than 20 years of experience reporting on business and consumer affairs and is also a longtime Castleton weekender.
Before adjourning the meeting, Meyer recognized “our two exceptional partners” — CSR and the Rappahannock News — and encouraged everyone to add to the Forum’s more than 100 Facebook likes and watch out for news of future developments through social media.