Houston captured two first-place prizes Monday night in the Missouri Community Betterment contest in Columbia.

The town took the top award in its population category as well as the top youth prize for the community’s size. Individually, Houston representative Jim McNiell was one of seven honored with adult leadership awards. Jaden Beasley was one of three teens winning youth leadership awards.

Community Betterment

Jim McNiell receives a volunteer award at the Missouri Community Betterment contest in Columbia.

It was the second consecutive year and 10th time overall Houston won its population size since 1975. In 2017 and 2004, the community also won the grand prize.

Missouri Community Betterment (MCB) honored 19 communities, nine youth groups and 10 community leaders at its 55th annual conference. Nearly 200 volunteers, community leaders and youth from across the state — including several from Houston — were in attendance to celebrate community and economic development efforts, network with each other and connect with resource providers.

Other winners in Houston’s category were: Albany, second; Ava, third; Fayette, fourth; and Lathrop, fifth. In the youth category, Fayette took second.

Houston Community Betterment and Arts Council of Houston, comprised of volunteers, organizes Houston’s annual entry and contributes to projects throughout the year. A panel of judges toured the community in September.

Community Betterment

Jaden Beasley receives a youth award from Missouri Community Betterment.

Within the 2018 theme “Rural Rally,” attendees discussed how to think differently about their communities as they work to make them places where youth and adults alike want to build their lives. The event covered topics from placemaking, marketing and rural broadband to avoiding volunteer burnout and leadership succession planning. Featured speakers and organizations included the Missouri Department of Economic Development; University of Missouri Extension; keynote speaker Deb Brown with Saveyour.town; Andrew McCrea, nationally syndicated radio broadcaster of “American Countryside”; Dr. Arthur Mehrhoff, Missouri Humanities Council; Dr. Sean Siebert, innovation consultant from Cuba, Mo.; MIZZOU Alternative Breaks; and, Mark Kempker, “Bringing the HEET” a multi-pronged approach to addressing heroine usage.

Buffalo won the grand prize in the contest.

“The Missouri Community Betterment Board congratulates all the volunteers from our communities throughout the state,” MCB President Louis Riggs said. “These dedicated individuals and their collaborative community and economic development efforts continue to make Missouri’s rural communities a place people want to call home.”

Most individuals within MCB participating communities are volunteers who have gathered a group of people who recognize the need for improvements and take it upon themselves to plan and facilitate group efforts to move their community forward. Many primary contacts are local business owners, elected officials and board members of various civic and nonprofit organizations. Local youth who are interested in leadership and civic engagement are also involved. MCB encourages communities to include and foster seniors, adults and youth in every aspect of their community betterment efforts. They are also invited to submit their projects each year in the awards program for recognition and celebration.

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