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Thayer residents rejoining Missouri Community Betterment program

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thayer residents, representing a variety of organizations and agencies, met on June 17 to discuss launching a new community betterment program. A similar effort 10 years ago resulted in several major improvements funded by $1.5 million in grants. Photo by Richard Irby
After a five year break, a group of civic minded Thayer residents are planning to get back to the work of making their city better than ever.

Last Thursday night, around 20 residents gathered at the Bank of Thayer to discuss rejoining the Missouri Community Betterment program.

"Our goal is to help communities improve the quality of life for their residents," explained Community Betterment Director Jan Simon.

"We have seen what Thayer has accomplished in the past," Simon added, "and we would like to have you back as a part of MCB."

Missouri Community Betterment is a 47 year old program that teaches citizens how to organize to identify community problems and needed improvement projects and form a game plan to tackle them.

In 2000, Thayer used the MCB approach to take on a long list of community improvements that included revitalizing the downtown with new sidewalks, lighting and landscaping.

The group was also instrumental in opening the Caboose Tourist Information Center, starting a city recycling program, and improving storm sewers.

The projects were possible because the citizens, working with city government, were able to obtain about $1.5 million in grants.

"We can accomplish a lot when we work together," said Regina Caldwell, a Thayer Chamber of Commerce member who is leading the effort to launch new projects to improve the city.

Over the past five years, citizens have helped with other projects including a new high school football field house and improvements at the city industrial development site.

But Caldwell and others think it is time to take a new inventory of the community and come up with a new long range plan instead of taking a piecemeal approach to community betterment.

At last Thursday's meeting, residents had plenty of suggestions about what needs to be done.

They included improving traffic flow from the elementary school on Walnut Street through the busy commercial area that ends at the intersection of Highways 63 and 142 (Walnut Street); creating signature entryways to the city through better lighting and landscaping; and expanding the city festival area where tractor pulls and other community events are held.

"I'm getting excited all over again," shouted Larry Cornelius, who was very involved in the initiative that began in 2000.

The success back then led to Thayer receiving a first place award from the Missouri Community Betterment program.

"Thayer was one of the first cities I knew of to begin a comprehensive recycling program," said Simon. "The downtown beautification program was very impressive."

Simon added past citizen experience identifying and applying for grants should give Thayer a head start as it takes on new projects.

Caldwell added that coming up with a list of projects will be the easy part. "Accomplishing the goals will be the challenge. It will take ideas and input from people willing to work to help get it done."

Simon says progressive communities are not discouraged by the tough economy. They are continuing to plan projects and look to the future figuring better times are ahead.

Organizers were pleased with last week's turnout and plan to move forward.

"I was encouraged by the number of people who attended, their interaction, and the different groups they represented." Caldwell said. "I think we have a good core group to begin work".

Another meeting will be held on Thursday, July 15th at six p-m at the Fun and Friends Senior Citizens Center.

The Missouri Community Betterment program is pledging to offer its help and encouragement as new initiatives are planned.

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