Sharing, Growing, and Moving

A woman, wearing a red T-shirt listing Rosemary’s Daycare on it, smiles while sitting on a bench with many small children sitting beside her, also smiling. The word “share” in yellow with children standing in the letters. The word “move” in red. The word “grow” in blue. A girl sitting in a yellow lowercase letter “A” and a boy standing beside her. Children holding bags and standing among yellow letters.
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StoryWalk, word art beautify Belzoni downtown

Story by Bonnie Coblentz • Photos by Kevin Hudson

The StoryWalk and colorful word art now installed in downtown Belzoni are giving Rosemary Williams a new opportunity for the children she cares for at Rosemary’s Daycare and Learning Center.

“The park is a meeting place, and having the StoryWalk here brings us out,” Williams says. “It brings the adults out, it brings the children out, and it brings the elderly out. Reading and moving gets us off our smartphones and our computers and gets us doing something.”

Williams, a Belzoni native, is excited about the addition to her downtown, a project coordinated by the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s AIM for CHangE program, which stands for Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health through Extension. The program’s goal is to create community coalitions made up of local champions to solve health issues.

Keltra Chandler, an Extension associate who coordinated the StoryWalk, says the StoryWalk and its unique word art installations combine a walking track with a children’s storybook. Pages are displayed at stops around the track, allowing visitors to read the entire book while circling the track.

“A StoryWalk combines the joys of reading with the joys of movement,” she explains.

The large yellow letters of the word “share” at the StoryWalk encourage those passing by to walk around the path and read and interact with a children’s storybook. Just a block away are the green letters of the word “grow” that mark the community garden. And about two blocks in the opposite direction is the red word “move” that decorates the city’s playground and ballpark.

“Our community is growing, and this is new to our community,” Williams shares. “The children are our future, and we have to make sure they are going to be equipped and have what they need in this society. These words—share, grow, and move—are perfect.”

These decorative additions enhance the quality of life in Belzoni, and Williams says these spaces are places for people to meet, build friendships, and grow together.

“We need more of this,” she emphasizes. “We need more children-oriented projects for our community. They are our future. You have to make sure they are prepared. These are our doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers.

“I hope this will spur more things like this in the community,” Williams continues.

Regina Boykins, MSU Extension agent in Humphreys County, said words cannot express her appreciation, amazement, and excitement for the beautiful work done in Belzoni.

“AIM for CHangE was joined by Dr. Abbey Franovich and her crew of Mississippi State landscape architecture students who designed, built, and installed these pieces of word art,” Boykins says. “They are a dedicated group of people, and what they are doing is beyond our expectations of this project.

“It’s just what our community needs—not just for an environmental uplifting, but one that’s going to uplift the mindset of the people as well.”

Emily Tillman-Donovan is president of the Belzoni Humphreys Development Foundation and a supporter of the community project.

“It seems like such a small thing, but, in a place like this, it is a huge quality of life improvement because there’s just not enough for our children to do,” Tillman-Donovan said. “Our community will not be able to sustain itself or grow and thrive without our children.”

Click here to see what AIM for CHangE is accomplishing statewide.

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