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Cultivating New Life in Bogue Chitto

Imagine living in a community that didn’t have its own schools, medical facility, service station, or dining options. Selma residents do have access to all of these resources and more.  But several surroundings communities aren’t as fortunate and are challenged to go the extra mile to take advantage of the services they need or forced to settle for going without.

Bogue Chitto is one of those communities.

The small residential hub in rural Dallas County is about 20 miles west of Selma.  County Road 3 runs straight through the community and out into nearby Orrville where families have to commute to take their kids to school, grocery shop and fill up their gas tanks. To vote they have to drive at least 12 miles in the opposite direction to the Kelly Baker Auditorium in Marion Junction. To receive medical attention they have to drive back east to the Queen City.

“I keep gas in my car because I don’t know if there’s going to be an emergency,” said Shelly McGee.

Bogue Chitto residents would much rather step out onto their own soil to obtain the things they need for daily life. McGee and four other concerned citizens who saw the need to develop the community took on the charge to restore its former glory and create an environment that will better serve those who live there.

Thus, the Bogue Chitto Community Foundation was formed. The Foundation’s board consists of Frances Effinger, Roger Drain, Eugene Taylor, Eartean Walker and Shelly McGee.

Like Bogue Chitto, many rural communities have some the same needs: businesses, infrastructure, parks and recreation, a water system and even garbage services. Although the list of needs could go on, the key to creating change within these areas is to simply use what is available.

While assets may seem few and far between, every community has them. The Bogue Chitto Community Foundation is putting thought into how they can shape the community with the help of its largest asset: human capital.

Callie Nelson, director of the Dallas County Cooperative Extension Service Office, recently presented two solutions to the Foundation’s board. The first solution focused on the community’s needs and identified services as the key to meeting those needs.

The second approach focused on the assets already present in the community and identified connections and contributions as the keys to improvement.

In relation to the models, Nelson left the board to answer the question, “Are you sitting back waiting on somebody to come and rescue you or are we getting up and doing for ourselves?” The group was unanimous in their citizens-over-consumer approach.

A top-down approach to community development increases dependency on outside help to provide wanted services, but a bottom-up approach increases a community’s independence in providing the services they need for themselves.  

When people are the answer the community has the potential to build stronger relationships with one another and induce a greater sense of pride in themselves and where they live.

Handymen, seamstresses, retired educators, landowners, volunteers and more call Bogue Chitto home. Though their occupations may differ, the diverse networks that they are a part of can work together for the good of the community if they band together.

Topping the Foundation’s list of goals is building a Community Center as well as a Senior Citizens Nutrition and Activity Center. The community is home to a significant senior population and a budding ensemble of youth. They are seeking to foster services that create an intergenerational bond between the two groups.

With both a vision and a mission statement in place, the Bogue Chitto Community Foundation’s next step is getting the rest of the community involved by taking into consideration their concerns and developing a plan on how to move forward.

The Foundation will be hosting a Community Health Fair on July 24 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at New Vernon Church.

Tags: Selma

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