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Funding opportunities inspire local projects
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many communities are ready and willing to make aesthetic improvements or increase environmental consciousness, but it often takes outside encouragement to get a project started.
"The Community Pride program usually provides the seed money to motivate youth groups to develop projects to improve their local environment. The grants are intended to stimulate additional investments by the local community," said Rae Wilkinson, 4-H program specialist with the MSU Extension Service.
Community Pride is a grants and awards program sponsored by the ChevronTexaco Companies and administered by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The goal of the sponsors is for organizations that serve youth, such as 4-H, to plan and conduct community improvement projects with emphasis on improving the environment.
"The environmental education projects for young people ages 5 through 18 help youth learn cooperative skills that will help them succeed and prepare them as future leaders," Wilkinson said. "Projects of all sizes range from recycling programs and community beautification to soil conservation and gardening."
Vicki McIllwain is in her ninth year as a Clay County 4-H volunteer. She heard about the program and decided to propose a project to enhance the grounds around her community center.
"Most of the people in the Cedar Bluff community have lived there all their lives. The community center has been vital to our activities, and we wanted to make some improvements," McIllwain said. "The building has been in good shape, but the grounds were bare."
McIllwain, the volunteer leader for the Horse Creek 4-H Club, said 60 to 70 people have taken part in the project that included removing old trees and brush, planting spring bulbs, and installing a reading bench, birdbath and picnic table. In addition to the aesthetic improvements, the greatest benefit of the program has been the community involvement.
"Many of our senior adults are former 4-H members. They have enjoyed working alongside the youth and seeing the next generation show appreciation for the community center and the environment," McIllwain said.
The Horse Creek 4-H Club project was one of seven recently recognized at a legislative luncheon in Jackson. The Clay County club received the First Congressional District award.
Linda Massey, a volunteer leader with the Greenlee 4-H Club in Attala County, brought some of her club members to Jackson to receive the Speaker's Award. They built a nature trail adjacent to Greenlee Elementary School, which has a pre-kindergarten through sixth grade enrollment of 435 students.
"The weather was a challenge, but it looks beautiful. We planted flowers, yucca plants, dogwoods, Japanese magnolias and crape myrtles," Massey said.
Club president George Rainey spearheaded the hole-digging responsibilities with his friends.
"It was fun to plant things and watch them grow. I enjoy agriculture," Rainey said.
Other clubs recognized at the luncheon included the Cypress Park Elementary School's SALLY 4-H Club in Cleveland, which received the Governor's Award; the Highlight 4-H Club of Lucedale, which earned the Lieutenant Governor's Award; the Soldiers of New Birth Ministry of Gunnison, the Second Congressional District Award winner; the Magnolia Courts Youth Gardeners of Meridian, the Third Congressional District winner; and the George County Rebel Recyclers of Lucedale, the winners of the Fourth Congressional District Award.
Contact: Dr. Rae Wilkinson, (662) 325-1696