Written by USDA Public Relations Intern Megan Harrison
In celebration of June as National Homeownership Month, I had the privilege of travelling all over the state of Illinois (from Freeport in northern Illinois to 400 miles south in Carterville, and a few places in between) with Illinois Rural Development staff to watch a “talk show” hosted by our state director, Colleen Callahan.
The unique talk show-format gave me an interesting perspective on homeowners who used our programs to achieve the “American Dream” of owning a home. Instead of having the homeowners (and everyone involved in their purchasing process) stand up and give a presentation, Colleen interviewed each of them to get a more personal look at their experience with USDA Rural Development. Since I just started working here last month, this was truly my first exposure to Rural Development “in action.”
The opportunity of hearing the direct beneficiaries talk about their experiences with our loan programs is simply amazing (and it also happens to be my favorite part of the show). They are so appreciative and excited about their new homes that it’s hard for anyone in the room to miss because it’s written all over their faces. Talk about a work motivator! Seeing the lives that Rural Development impacts just gives you a sense of accomplishment and inspires you to work harder.
I discovered that the format of the event was a very clever idea. Instead of having the public listen to a person lecture or give a presentation, the talk show gave them an easy way to learn about Rural Development programs in a causal and interactive environment. I’ve always felt I personally learn better when I can relate to the topic; so by listening to the conversations and stories in the talk show, the public was learning about the housing services Rural Development has to offer them.
One topic I learned the most about (aside from some specifics in Rural Development’s programs) was the impact homeownership has on the community. I knew that owning a home had advantages in a community, but I never stopped to think about it. Several guests at our talk shows were interviewed about homeowners and community involvement. When someone owns a home, the person is more likely to be a more active member of the community and volunteer, patronize local businesses and use facilities available to them within the community. The livelihood of the community truly depends on the homeowners.
With National Homeownership Month coming to a close, I realize just how important our programs are to those who need them. It truly feels like Rural Development is making a difference in the lives of people who live in rural communities.