The Center For Rural Development Celebrates Ten Years

Operation UNITE started as a part of the Center for Rural Development in Somerset. The Center celebrated ten years of serving Eastern Kentucky Monday.

Interestingly enough, the Center started with a vision that was written on restaurant napkins. Since then, it's mushroomed to serve many different purposes all under one roof.

"Because this was to be a model for rural economic development for the entire country," said 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers.

Some people say if you travel the United States, you won't find any other building like this one. Part of it is just an office building, part is a theater for the arts, and some holds the largest amount of convention space between Lexington and Knoxville.

"All the way from public safety programming to arts and culture to training programs. We have events from weddings to gun shows to food shows," said Lonnie Lawson with The Center for Rural Development.

People with Operation UNITE focus on drug education and enforcement, PRIDE has cleaned up Eastern Kentucky eyesores, and with Roger's Scholars, young people say they've got a reason to stay in their hometowns.

"They learn about computers. It's a technology oriented program. And then they go back home and do community service and then they form a group that stays together over a period of time," said Mike Duncan, a Center board member.

"Proverbs says without vision people perish. People are not going to perish in this part of Kentucky," said Hilda Legg, former Center Executive Director.

In the years since 1996 and since 911, the Center has also served as a hub for homeland security programs for small towns and technologies to help rural police departments.

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