In 2013, Keep Clinton, MS Beautiful received a grant from Keep Mississippi Beautiful and Waste Management Inc. The grant enabled us to construct a Community Garden located at the Clinton Community Christian Corporation. This garden will provide fresh vegetables for low to moderate income residents. It will also aid in the education of the value of fresh vegetables and good health. In a state with a significantly high obesity rate, this garden underscores the importance of healthy lifestyle and food choices. The garden will create an environment by which obesity and hunger are combatted through community partnerships and healthy lifestyles. Classes and cooking demonstrations will continue in coordination with the ongoing maintenance of the garden. The garden is a significant investment in the future of our communities’ ability to meet the needs of our residents while also providing a transformative experience for the children and families benefitting from the garden.
By Sarah Kountouris, Executive Director, Keep Mississippi Beautiful
Kamien Way was once a bit tired. And because its proximity to downtown it was definitely not a place that the city of Cleveland, Miss., wanted visitors to see.
But now that’s changed, thanks to help of 350-plus volunteers who turned out for our Great American Cleanup State Kickoff in early April.
Volunteers transformed the alley into a place merchants and visitors can use. And they also spruced up local parks and removed litter from the Delta town’s streets.
Keep Mississippi Beautiful partnered with Keep Cleveland Beautiful, and many other groups who helped make this event possible. A special thanks to Keep Cleveland Beautiful’s executive director, Lisa Cooley, who was the driving force behind this successful event.
Most of our volunteers were from Delta State University, and we were so excited to have the younger generation be a part of the cleanup effort. Plus, it’s neat to see all of the social media buzz they bring with them!
Lisa said it best: “It’s very refreshing to see kids get involved, especially with the hope they will be environmentally responsible adults one day.”
Other partners included: the City of Cleveland (i.e. public works, fire department, parks commission), Joe Reed Dirt, The Sherwin-Williams Company, Sanders Seed, Heidi’s, Sonic, Lenny’s, Keep Cleveland Boring, Bolivar County Literacy Council, Guaranty Bank, Master Gardeners, Cleveland Rent-All, RES, Entergy, JLP Law, Troy-Bilt, and many others.
The alley was the cleanup’s signature project, during which we cleaned up debris, trimmed overgrown plants and painted bare walls. We have plans to add a few murals, and this cleanup effort paved the way for those additional projects. With this work complete, the alley is another asset to the city’s cute downtown, providing parking space and a gathering place. The vision is one day to hold events in the alley, such as concerts and festivals.
This event serves as a foundation for future improvement projects for the alley. As Lisa put it: “The community is so excited about the project. I’ve already had numerous calls about when the next cleanup will take place! We’re excited to see what happens next!”
Learn more by visiting keepmsbeautiful.com.
For Evelyn Copeland, this month’s joint meeting of Keep Mississippi Beautiful and Keep Alabama Beautiful proved a great opportunity to share ideas on community improvement.
“We come home rejuvenated, our batteries charged and ready to take on new challenges,” said Copeland, director of Keep Simpson County Beautiful, one of Mississippi’s 40 affiliates.
Copeland was one of about 100 attendees of the annual gathering held in Tupelo, Miss. Attendees received training from Keep America Beautiful’s (KAB) Susan Burkhardt and learned about KAB’s emerging and classic programs, ranging from Cars to Donate to the Great American Cleanup.
“Susan Burkhardt’s sessions were such a help to me and other affiliates,” said Andrea Rose, director of Keep Corinth-Alcorn County Beautiful.
“The Mississippi-Alabama state conferences are always a great way to network and learn from other affiliates and also hear from our national organization,” Rose said. “It always helps me feel more connected with Keep America Beautiful national organization and my fellow Mississippi and Alabama affiliates.”
Tupelo is home to Universal Asset Management, a company that buys airplanes and recycles and rehabilitates airplane parts. What can’t be recycled, they transform into art and furniture. Their office has boardroom tables made of airplane wings.
“The most unique part was the visit to aviation afterlife,” said Judy Keenum, coordinator for Keep the Shoals Beautiful, one of the KAB affiliates in Alabama. “Their business of dismantling and reusing aircraft is incredible. Equally impressive is the quality and precision of the workmanship used.”
In the coming days, the work of one of Keep Mississippi Beautiful’s largest beautification projects will blossom, literally.
Our organization partnered with several nonprofits to sow more than 1 million flowering bulbs, the first of which should be blooming as fall nears. This effort was funded by donations by KMB and other groups and it armed 26 communities across the state with boxes of flowering bulbs, including dahlias, gladiolas and peonies.
From the Coast to the Delta to northeast Mississippi, we worked with America Responds with Love, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mississippi Beverage Association, Mississippi Municipal League, our affiliates and many other partners to make this possible.
Planting trees, shrubs and flowers has obvious perks. Plants improve aesthetics, help clean air and water, and provide shade and sanctuary.
But the benefits of beautification efforts are bigger. They lead to higher property values and can truly transform a neighborhood.
For example, tree-scaped business districts average 12 percent higher revenue than treeless areas. When a tree is planted within 50 feet of a home, it can increase the home’s value by 9 percent. And homes within a quarter mile of a park boast a 10 percent higher value.
Research shows people prefer natural landscape to hard-scapes, even showing that urban residents dislike treeless, empty spaces. When trees were added, more people took advantage of that urban place. A study also showed that exposure to public green spaces also builds a stronger sense of unity among residents.
It’s pretty amazing what a green thumb can do for a community. And it makes sense why one of our key objectives is community greening.
We’re affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, and like us, our state is home to affiliates that serve cities, counties and even a reservoir. With 30 affiliates and four new ones about to be on the roster, our network has made a big impact across the state.
In September, Keep America Beautiful and its many affiliates will celebrate National Planting Day, an event in which groups like us gather together to beautify communities.
If you live in Mississippi, I encourage you to see if your community has a Keep Mississippi Beautiful affiliate. If it does, join in and see how you can help clean and green your community. If it doesn’t consider joining us for a volunteer project or look into starting an affiliate in your community.
-Sarah Kountouris is executive director of Keep Mississippi Beautiful.