Thursday, April 12, 2012
Chamber event spreads optimism
By SUE WATSON
Attendance at the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon included a membership that is inspired to higher ground.
The chamber’s goal for 2012 is to improve communications with partners and members. To that end, the chamber will announce soon the launching of a website, according to executive director Rebecca Bourgeois. Dream Design Studios in Hernando is putting together the website.
Holly Springs Main Street Association will share the website, which will expose what the community offers, list business memberships and showcase the community as a whole, Bourgeois said.
The website is sponsored by the Bank of Holly Springs, First State Bank and Merchants & Farmers Bank – all in Holly Springs. Ad space will be sold, Bourgeois said. There will be an email address listed on the site, as well as all members’ businesses or names, and a calendar of events.
Last year’s goal was developing partnerships.
Partnerships were developed through ribbon cuttings, grand openings, use of Rust College student interns, and attendance at meetings with Mississippi Economic Development Council; Mississippi Arts Commission; Hills Heritage Alliance; and Mississippi Development Authority. The chamber partnered with the Appalachian Regional Commission, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, Mississippi Economic Council, The CREATE Foundation and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Partnerships helped the chamber fulfill its mission of promoting, supporting, and improving Holly Springs as a great place to live, work and do business, Bourgeois said.
New members in 2012 include Century 21, Cherry Place, Dream Design Studios, HomeChoice Health Services, MD Communications, Metrocast Cable of Mississippi, Shape Up and Tan Fitness and South Center Printing.
The 2012 board of directors includes Greg Campbell, president; Annie Moffitt; Traci Cheslak; Eric Randle; Bubba Hubbard; Marsha Taylor, vice president; Fannie Lampley; Lexine Wilkins-Smith; Lisa Liddy; and T.J. Vanzant, treasurer. The luncheon was hosted by Rust College.
Bourgeois said a new slick map for Holly Springs is being produced with lots of points of interest included.
Teach For America representatives made short presentations.
Kathryn McGaw provided some insights into the program that spans the deltas on both sides of the Mississippi River in Arkansas and Mississippi.
Rarick said Teach For America looks for the best and the brightest in the United States – graduates ranking in the top 5 percent of college grads. Holly Springs/Marshall County has 22 AmericCorp teachers in place and the organization is hoping to place 10 or 12 more next year, she said.
The goal of the current AmericCorp teachers in the area is to bring up ACT scores to 21 or better so students will have the skills to stay in college to graduation once they get there.
Local groups or clubs can raise up to $5,000 to help bring another teacher to Holly Springs. The local money is matched dollar for dollar up to $5,000 by a benefactor from Connecticut.
McGaw was joined in her presentation by Katie Rarick, director of growth, strategy and development for the region they serve. The goal is to close the achievement gap between impoverished school children and the rest of the nation. Teach For America does that by providing highly skilled and motivated teachers to help improve learning, particularly in the sciences.
Roy DeBerry, with the Hill Country Project, presented a project his organization sponsors to train high school dropouts with soft skills and to place them in their first job while they prepare for a permanent job. He has 25 enrollees in Benton County and 26 in Marshall County in the program. He needs businesses in Marshall County that will help train these new workforce recruits in hard skills in the workplace.
Chelius Carter updated members on the progress of Preserve Marshall County/Holly Springs Inc., including grants and events.
The organization advocates for the preservation of historic sites, structures and culture, he said. The storm-damaged Miller Building is ready to undergo repair on the roof and back wall, he said. Catherine Hall on the Mississippi Industrial College campus is under demolition and Carter said Preserve Marshall County/Holly Springs is working to save the facade to preserve the 111-year-old streetscape. The Wrecking Ball fund-raiser, to get money to stabilize Chalmers Institute, has paid off with a grant from Mississippi Department of Archives and History, according to Carter. Work on that project begins this spring, he said.
September 22 is set as the date for the second Wrecking Ball event to raise funds to continue the restoration of the school building. PMCHS envisions the structure being used as a venue for preserving the arts and culture, a site for the visual or performing arts, a place for musical performances and a school for teaching traditional construction techniques, Carter said.
A grant to see if the vision held for Chalmers Institute is realistic and if there is community support for it has been received through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, he said.
A new, unique event – Behind The Big House Tour – has been added to this year’s Pilgrimage, funded through a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. Carter said a tour of cook houses and slave quarters behind the big houses is designed to help tell the story of how African Americans contributed to regional culture as well as to the construction of the wonderful antebellum homes the community is so proud of.
“Without folk who lived in their backyard structures, the big houses could not have been built nor made livable,” Carter said.
The tour, a collaborative effort of the Holly Springs Garden Club and PMCHS and Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum, is free to the public.
The kitchen/quarters at the Hugh Craft House and Burton Place will be open during Pilgrimage this weekend and will serve as a pilot program to tell a more complete and inclusive narrative of Holly Springs and Marshall County History.
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