Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:
When developing its comprehensive plan, the City of Clinton took care in creating multiple opportunities for public participation at each stage. Public input meetings, online surveys, and outreach activities during community events were used to seek input from residents and the business community. The city continues its strong tradition of citizen engagement by hosting yearly district meetings and having 13 advisory boards and four Clinton Main Street Program committees. City departments also organize and participate in community events throughout the year with the goal of building positive interactions and listening to input from a diverse citizenry.
1.) Healthy Neighborhoods- Newkirk Park and Clinton Police Department
In the early 2000s, crime in the neighborhoods surrounding the James L. Newkirk Park was escalating, and the park became the hub of criminal activity. Citizens didn’t feel safe leaving their homes or using the neighborhood park. At the same time, the relationship between residents and law enforcement was strained.
Local resident Nettie Pernell and neighbors formed the Newkirk Park Advisory Committee (NPAC) and went to work taking back their neighborhood.
Forming a partnership with the city, local businesses, and the police, the park committee set a goal to raise money, get a walking trail established, purchase new park equipment and rid the area of high crime rates. In January 2012, the Newkirk Park Walking Trail was completed, and the police department began to implement more of a community policing philosophy.
Next, the park committee worked with partners to bring various celebrations and events to the park. Eventually, Newkirk Park was rededicated in May of 2016, and revitalization of the park has assisted in driving out drug and criminal activity.
The Clinton Police Department recognizes that hosting community events is not enough and has established several community partnerships to improve relations with residents. These partnerships and events have improved the quality of life of all residents and have improved the relationships between the police and the community. Since 2011 when the police adopted more of a community policing philosophy, the crime rates in the neighborhoods surrounding Newkirk Park have dropped 56%.
2.) Healthy Beginnings- Kerr School Garden and Recycling
Many students in Clinton reside in areas designated as “food deserts” where there is limited access to food based on multiple factors, including proximity to grocery stores and the availability of transportation. Realizing this difficulty, a group of businesses, government offices, schools, and civic organizations came together to establish a vegetable garden at L.C. Kerr Elementary School (LCK).
The goal of the garden project was to create an opportunity to reduce childhood obesity and increase daily consumption of vegetables. Creation and maintenance of the garden has been a community-wide effort. Local master gardeners designed the garden beds, students helped with construction, local businesses donated the supplies, and volunteers continuously supply seedlings and offer their assistance with planting, maintenance and harvesting.
Students are educated on planting, watering, weeding, fertilizing, good and bad bugs, and to respect the process of each task. The garden has offered teaching opportunities across several areas of the curriculum: Math, Science, Arts and Language, and Reading. Additionally, the Child Nutrition Department has included healthy eating classes that explore topics such as portion control, food safety, drink choices, and how to read nutrition labels.
Harvested vegetables are used in the classroom to be dissected, tasted, smelled, and observed. The food that is not used is donated to the soup kitchen and other local ministries, helping increase the community’s vegetable consumption. Since its inception, the LCK garden has served approximately 600 students each year.
3.) Healthy Environment- Smithfield Foods & Community Partnerships
Smithfield Foods is a 15 billion-dollar global food company, as well as the City of Clinton’s biggest taxpayer and largest employer. It is a challenge to operate a pork processing facility within city limits, yet Smithfield undertakes proactive partnerships with the community to ensure they are good corporate neighbors and lessen the company’s environmental footprint.
Smithfield’s Community Advisory Panel (CAP) is one of the ways Smithfield gives members of the community an opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns with regard to the industry. Smithfield visits with neighbors of the industry, including a local Mexican restaurant, an elementary school, a funeral home, and a hardware store.
The desire to be a good community partner led Smithfield to embark on a costly venture to help ensure that environmental operations at the facility do not negatively impact its neighbors. During an overhaul and rehabilitation of Smithfield’s four-million-gallon, above-ground wastewater tank, the Smithfield management team worked to fund the placement of a geodesic dome covering the huge wastewater tank at the Clinton facility. There was no legal requirement for this improvement, but Smithfield believed it was the right thing to do to contribute to the quality of life of its neighbors.
Additionally, Smithfield has embarked on 300 community outreach projects, invested thousands of dollars into the community, helped to teach important environmental lessons, and brought fun and excitement to citizens during special events each year.