Keep America Beautiful awards MSU Extension
BELZONI, Miss. -- A team whose mission is to “Keep Belzoni Beautiful” has earned national recognition for its work.
Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit organization committed to community improvement and beautification, presented the Mississippi State University Extension Service a Keep America Beautiful State Agency Partnership award for 2021. Only 13 such awards were presented nationwide. Keep Belzoni Beautiful -- KBB for short -- is a chapter of Keep Mississippi Beautiful.
Belzoni is a town in Humphreys County in the Mississippi Delta. Regina Boykins, an MSU Extension agent, is on the chapter’s committee. She connected the collaborative with MSU Extension’s AIM for CHangE, which stands for Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health through Extension.
This initiative was funded by a $5.5 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program is designed to combat obesity and related diseases by providing educational programming and access to outdoor recreation and healthier foods.
Through AIM for CHangE, KBB obtained funding for elements of a produce garden, including an irrigation system, mulch and fencing. The garden, which had its first crop planted in 2019, has since expanded to 16,300 square feet.
In an interview with Extension Matters magazine in 2021, committee member Clifton Williams said produce harvested from the garden went to the town’s two food pantries for distribution to low-income households and the elderly.
“Regina knew who we could talk to that would be helpful when we were getting started, and she’s out there now whenever we need her,” Williams said. “It would have been very difficult to start this garden or keep it going without her.”
Located on a vacant lot beside the town’s fire department, the garden is one of KBB’s primary projects.
Boykins said Williams and KBB Executive Director Chandra Hines have devoted countless hours to the garden and were instrumental in its launch.
“They are avid gardeners, and they have been instrumental in turning plans into action, from Mr. Williams’s expertise in construction and gardening to Mrs. Hines’s experience in writing grants and pulling resources together,” she said. “They and many others in the community have given their own time and resources to get the Belzoni Community Garden where it is today.”
Keep America Beautiful was established in 1953 to address blight, increase recycling and enhance public spaces in affiliate communities.