MITCHELL — A little paint here. A playground over there. Add in a new basketball court, shelter house and a few hundred feet of sidewalks.
David Miller, chief executive officer of Hoosier Uplands, says it isn’t much, but he believes those smaller projects can create a lot of community pride.
About four years ago, Hoosier Uplands instituted what it calls a community development and improvement program. The idea is to put money aside to do smaller projects within the communities the nonprofit serves in Lawrence, Martin, Orange, Crawford and Washington counties.
The first project was the razing of a blighted trailer court on Mitchell’s east side. Hoosier Uplands bought the property, took out all the trailers and cleaned up the 3-1/2-acre tract. The next year, the organization did a facade improvement project in Shoals. It offered to replace windows, doors and awnings and paint buildings to spruce things up in the downtown area.
“We might buy a blighted house and tear it down, or in Orleans, for example, we’re working with the town to do some sidewalks,” Miller said. “In Salem, we are looking at possibly adding a playground. We like to go from town to town and do projects along those lines. In recent years, we’ve put a lot of money into Paoli and Bedford, so right now, we’re focusing on the smaller communities we serve.”
In Mitchell, that means downtown building owners will get some help rehabilitating their structures. Miller said that could mean replacing windows, doors or just exterior painting.
“It’s nothing major, but we do want to partner with our downtown business owners to perhaps do things they could use help doing,” Miller said. “Right now, we’ve put the idea out to the businesses and we’re waiting to hear from them on what they might like to have done to their buildings. The city of Mitchell has been very cooperative.”
Part of that could include the restoration of the mural on the northwestern corner of Sixth and Main streets.
But the work won’t end there.
The organization is working on filling out the 3-1/2-acre plot on Frank Street where the trailer park once stood. The community garden is taking up some space on the east end, but a shelter house, playground, basketball court and soccer field will eventually consume the rest of the area. The shelter house and playground should be ready for use by the Fourth of July.
“Our focus is on handicap accessibility,” Miller said. “The playground will be as handicap accessible as possible and the sidewalks are to provide access to the playground.
“We look at the needs in each of the communities we serve, talk to the city officials and see what we can do. We can’t do all that we’d like, and we try to cycle it so every year it’s a different community to make sure we pass it around.
“It’s amazing what a new sidewalk or a little paint can do for an area.”