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Examining the Choice to Live in a Rural Town

Rich Egger

Bushnell will be the testing ground for a new program designed to look at economic and health issues in rural communities and how local residents perceive those issues.

“We chose Bushnell because it’s a rural community that has some industry and such, but it’s far enough away from Macomb or Monmouth or Galesburg to really have its own identity,” said Carrie McKillip, a Community Development Educator with the University of Illinois Extension. She is based in Galesburg and works on projects in Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren counties.

The project’s title is “SIMply Report: A Measurement and Planning Initiate for Rural Communities.” The “SIM” stands for Survey, Interviews, Meeting:

  • Survey – the community survey is already underway. It’s available online or residents can pick up a paper version at Bushnell City Hall or the Bushnell Utility Office
  • Interviews – these will be done with what McKillip called “key informants” in the community
  • Meeting – the community meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. on March 25 at the Bushnell Recreational and Cultural Center

“I think it’s important for residents of any community to really become engaged. If you believe in your community and you like your community, this is an opportunity for people to come together (and) share their concerns and ideas with community leaders,” McKillip said.

She called the project a “quality of life assessment.” She said the idea for it grew out of the realization that many people choose to live in rural communities rather than urban areas.

“There are a lot of pluses. I have a five minute commute (to work). There are lots of things positive about living in rural areas and that’s what we want to highlight,” McKillip said.

“There are challenges to the rural quality of life. We all know healthcare can be a challenge. There are always things that we can work on. But we definitely want to hear why people choose to live in rural areas.”

Funding for the pilot project comes courtesy of a grant from the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, so McKillip said Bushnell will not spend any money to participate.

She said organizers hope this is just the first of many similar projects.

“Hopefully what we learn from doing the process with Bushnell will allow us to refine the process a bit and we can expand it out to other areas of the state and to other states as well.”

Rich is TSPR's News Director.