Eureka Springs volunteers honored at Arkansas Municipal League Conference

Friday, February 28, 2020

Eureka Springs Mayor Butch Berry accepted three awards on behalf of local volunteer-based groups at the Arkansas Municipal League's Winter Conference. These groups were honored locally at the beginning of the Eureka Springs City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.

Two of the awards are for categories of the 2019 Trendsetter City Awards sponsored by Arkansas Business and Crews & Associates.

The Native Plant Garden Project is the winner in the Under 5,000 Population category for Environmental/Green Management Practices. The Eureka Springs Native Plant Garden Project began about four years ago with two main objectives. The first was to provide a community educational resource by transforming a neglected right of way in downtown Eureka Springs into a vibrant, ecologically productive public green space. With support from the city, donors and volunteers, the neglected spot along First Street has been transformed into a lovely demonstration of plantings to attract birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial wildlife.

The second objective was to give others the knowledge to do this themselves by offering a variety of interesting learning opportunities. The project has hosted three Native Plant Fairs. These popular events offer native plant vendors, expert speakers and a way for native plant gardeners to exchange information. The project was nominated by Glenna Booth.

The other Eureka Springs Trendsetter City Award was given in the category of Tourism Development/Creative Culture for programs that attract tourism and improve the quality of life for citizens. The Eureka Springs Street Art Program is a collaboration of the Eureka Springs Arts Council, City of Eureka Springs, City Advertising and Promotion Commission, Eureka Springs High School Art Club and local artists. The program highlights the North Main Interactive Music Park with four instruments in a yarn-bombed wooded setting, the Interactive Augments Reality Art Wall on First Street, the Rainbow Stairs from Center to Main Streets and the month-long May Festival of the Arts. The project was nominated by Sandy Martin.

Additionally, Eureka Springs was honored as an Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year. These awards are designed to recognize the municipalities that seek to address the areas of greatest need within their communities through impact-minded volunteer activities. The awards are co-sponsored by the Office of the Governor, The Governor's Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism, Engage Arkansas and the Arkansas Municipal League.

The Eureka Springs Mayor's Task Force on Economic Development identified two great community needs: healthcare and affordable housing. These needs are being met by volunteers at ECHO Clinic and ECHO Village, the programs spotlighted in the award.

Currently, ECHO Clinic operates with more than 200 volunteers serving more than 1,000 patients a year. The clinic opened in fall 2009. ECHO also serves free dinners, provided by area churches and banks, to all patients and volunteers. ECHO Clinic provides the following services: medical, dental, optometry, mental health, community services, Spanish translation and a fully licensed pharmacy.

The clinic also operates a thrift store providing quality clothing, medical aids and furniture at very affordable prices. The thrift store gives back by participating in the school clothing voucher program.

ECHO Village is a model of a sustainable, cooperative community of small homes. Phase 1 of the project is complete. Ultimately, the project will include 26 small, energy-efficient homes with a central community center. The village houses young families, seniors, disabled, homeless veterans and prison releases. There is a community garden, hen house, shop, meeting room and exercise area.

Both ECHO Clinic and ECHO Village has a vast array of volunteers. The ages range from 8 to 80. ECHO Clinic has logged 239,170 hours of volunteer help since its inception. ECHO Village has more than 20,000 volunteer hours logged since 2018.

Dr. Dan and Suzie Bell, founders of the ECHO programs, joined Berry at the award presentation at the AML Conference in Little Rock. The programs were nominated by Sandy Martin.

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