BY JOE B. COATES
What’s the first thing that travelers notice when they enter one of our communities in Copiah County? If they are like me when I go somewhere new, they’ll intially comment on the cleanliness and neatness of the community–how much trash is on the sides of roads and streets, what type of signs are up (poorly hand-painted vs. professional, brightly-lit), how well the landscaping is presented and taken care of, etc. That first impression is key to whether those traveling folks are going to stop in town, dine, buy gas, shop and/or sight-see or if they are going to drive up or down to the next community for the same.
How our communities appear, therefore, are cogs in the wheel of economic development. And, “economic development means jobs,” if I may steal a quote from Neal Honan, former Executive Director of Copiah County Economic Development District.
The communities of Copiah County each have struggled with their appearances at one time or another. Litter, run-down or neglected store fronts and vacant, deteriorating buildings which haven’t had any activity in years are parts of the overall mental picture that visitors to our communities will take with them. And, commercial and property owners should bear the burden when they don’t take care of their own lots or empty buildings.
Sometimes, leadership on a town’s appearance is provided by a few who are generally proud of their town and their own homes and properties and want to spend their own time and energy – and sometimes their own resources – to make and keep the community as beautiful as possible. Many of those are ladies who are volunteer members of garden clubs in our communities (some gentlemen are, too, to be precise.) Garden Clubs in each of our towns excel at beautifying high-traffic areas, such as, downtown and major points of entry, so as to make that first impression made on new visitors an extremely positive one. Many times they work behind the scenes to improve the appearance of our towns.
All of our municipalities have official or, perhaps even unofficial, Garden Clubs. Like any other organization, they require funds to operate. The next time your town’s Garden Club holds a fundraiser, make sure you contribute. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having a few new members, as well, to help share the good, rewarding work they are doing to keep our communities beautiful. At the very least, thank your local Garden Club members for making our communities better.
BY JOE B. COATES