Video: North Mississippi Cities Compete for Community Development Grants

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TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) -Representatives from a dozen northeast Mississippi communities are taking grants back to their cities to help improve the quality of life for locals.

As WCBI’s Allie Martin reports, it’s part of a competition organized by the MSU Stennis Institute to encourage volunteers to come up with projects to benefit their cities and towns.
For months, they’ve been working on small dreams that can lead to bigger things..

“These range from Farmer’s Markets to walking tracks to ACT prep programs for struggling high school students.”
Now, these volunteers, or community sparkplugs, are making their presentations to investors from the public and private sector.

Each city can receive up to 3 thousand dollars in a mini grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to help put their plans into action.  It is seed money meant to prompt true community change from the local level.

“Folks have to own change locally because they’re the ones that know what needs to happen and they’re the ones that can keep it going.”

Gillian Williams is president of the Rensselaerville Institute, a think tank that helps the local leaders put their ideas into practice. The projects will also call on other community members to get involved in their town.  In New Albany, community sparkplugs will use the grant to launch a summer art program by paying for supplies .

“It’s called ‘I Folk Art New Albany’ it will be folk art classes, soap making to welding and blacksmithing.”

And volunteers from Amory want to continue improving the old Armory.

“Since it’s been renovated it looks beautiful on the inside, we have some acoustic issues so we’re using grant money to help with acoustic issues to raise 16 foot curtains to help with sound levels so we can bring in bigger bands, bigger acts.”

Work on the projects should start right away with the seed money from the grants. In Tupelo I’m Allie Martin WCBI News.

Organizers point out that other cities are welcomed to apply for the grant money. For information on that process, go to our website at wcbi dot com.


By Lena Mitchell/Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

TUPELO – One group from the tornado-ravaged city of Louisville was among the dozen groups awarded Appalachian Community Learning Project grants on Tuesday.

Elmetra Patterson and Bonnie Edwards of the Friends of Dean Park group in Louisville presented their project request for a $3,000 grant to funders from the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington.

The original project, Patterson said, was to make improvements to the park’s walking trail.

However, the tornado downed trees and made such a wreck of the park that the project was no longer practical.

Instead, Patterson said the group wants to honor the memory of Ruth Bennett, who died in the April 28 tornado while holding the last child left at her day care center before the tornado struck.

As part of a renovation of the concession stand at the park, the group will have a mural painted on the outside of the building with a picture of Bennett and the 4-year-old child. Patterson said the child is recovering in a hospital.

This group, along with 11 others from across Northeast Mississippi, will use the $3,000 mini-grants awarded to them in a results-based program that uses the ideas, energy and initiative of community volunteers to improve their towns. It’s referred to as the Community Sparkplugs Program.

Participating communities also include:

• Amory – The Amory group will improve acoustics for the recently renovated auditorium at the Amory Army Armory.

• Artesia – “Dollars for Scholars” will work with a group of academically under-performing students to improve their ACT scores to attract college scholarships.

• Ashland – The group will launch the Benton County Farmer’s Market, giving local producers an outlet for their garden products and providing a local place for Benton County residents to obtain fresh produce.

• Belmont – The volunteers will expand and promote events in the city’s C.C. Shook Park, working to increase attendance at three current events and adding three new events.

• Eupora – “Down on Dunn,” is a project of Eupora Arts Inc. to bring more family-oriented events to the Bly Fine Arts Center and to increase foot traffic to downtown businesses.

• New Albany – Members of the Tallahatchie Arts Council are developing an outreach to the community – youths and adults – for classes that include a variety of crafts: blacksmithing, welding, soap making, basket making, sculpture, drip painting and others.

• Shannon – “Hot Spot Summer Camp (for Cool Kids)” will work with at-risk children in grades 3-8 to progressively raise their reading grade level until their reading is at or above their grade level.

• Starkville – “Unity in the Community” is a youth-led project of students to bring together high school students from Starkville and Oktibbeha County public schools and Oktibbeha County private schools for community service and relationship-building projects to improve race relations as city and county schools move toward consolidation.

• Walnut – “Destination Downtown” will improve a city-owned lot as a park to bring vendors and visitors to the farmer’s market and other events in downtown Walnut.

• Winona – The group will work to expand the group of senior citizens in the Meals on Wheels program, while also adding quality of life activities to engage their interest throughout the week.

Categories: Local News, State News

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