UALR’s McLendon earns Breakthrough Solutions award
By Mary Hightower
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- UALR’s McLendon, We Love VBC, winners at Breakthrough Solutions Conference
- Britt Talent of Cleveland Co. Herald wins People’s Choice Award
(Newsrooms: ‘Terre’ is CQ; With art downloadable at www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/sets/72157651924629224)
LITTLE ROCK -- Twenty years ago, Terre McLendon recognized that the Internet could be a powerful force for change in communities, creating the Development Information Network of Arkansas, one of the first statewide economic development portals in the country.
McLendon is the director community and industry strategies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Institute for Economic Advancement.
“Terre’s vision and her many valuable contributions to community and economic development in Arkansas made exemplified the meaning of the SOAR Award from the Breakthrough Solutions program,” said Mark Peterson. Peterson is a professor of economic and community development with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. He is also
coordinator of Breakthrough Solutions, a partnership program dedicated to helping communities and regions become vibrant and sustainable in the 21st century economy. “The SOAR Award is given to communities, regions, or individuals who best exemplify the Breakthrough Solutions principles and spirit in their community development work.”
McLendon was among the award winners at the annual Breakthrough Solutions Conference held June 4 in North Little Rock. Breakthrough Solutions is an award-winning, next-generation strategic planning and development program of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service with partners in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
We Love VBC
The 2015 Breakthrough Solutions Award for communities went to We Love VBC - with the VBC standing for Van Buren County.
“Van Buren County has suffered greatly in recent years, with two tornadoes, floods, snowstorms, and the loss of major employers,” Peterson said. “This led to a loss of population and businesses. In response to this great need, local merchant Kitty Murdock started things rolling, and a group of local leaders came together and formed the community development organization We Love VBC.”
A meeting led to business owners and other residents cleaning up and painting the town. The group has sponsored a 5K Color Run, and SurvivorFest, which attracted more than 400 people and took a shot at getting into the Guinness Book of World Records with the largest potluck party. In addition. seven downtown buildings have been painted and 11 new businesses have opened in downtown since We Love VBC was formed. Peterson said sales in the downtown area are up 400 percent from two years ago.
“Not to be dramatically, but seriously I feel like weeping every time I think about the ripple effect. It’s just amazing and inspiring and I feel such gratitude that we’ve been able to effect change in our town,” said Wendy Russ, the We Love VBC chair.
The honoree for this year’s People’s Choice Award was Britt Talent publisher and editor of the Cleveland County Herald, who represented Kickstart Cleveland County.
“’Kickstart Cleveland County’ is a broad-based group of community leaders currently engaged in the Breakthrough Solutions planning and action process,” Peterson said. Cleveland County was one of the two counties chosen to participate in a pre-conference branding workshop on June 4, and is currently working to finalize and implement their new brand.
Talent and others gave speed presentations -- about five minutes apiece -- to conference-goers who then voted for their favorite.
For more information about community development contact your county extension office
or visit www.uaex.edu.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service