Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Karen Ott Mayer (left) with Rensselaerville Institute President Gillian Williams.

Karen Mayer attends ‘Sparkplug’ conference for community leaders

Como Main Street Alliance (CMSA) volunteer coordinator, Karen Ott Mayer, spoke yesterday at The Rensselaerville Institute’s “Community Sparkplugs” First National Summit in Emory, Virginia.

The conference began Wednesday and continues today. It focuses on bringing together investors and implementers to build a national movement for reinventing citizenry through people-led innovation in communities.

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Mayer joins approximately 25 other “sparkplugs” at the conference. Community Sparkplugs, a signature program of The Rensselaerville Institute, are people who help other people without being paid to do it.

In 2012, Como participated in the Appalachian Community Learning Project (ACLP) a fast-moving grant program which zeroes in on a results and works with communities within the Mississippi Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) region through the development and implementation of self-help, results based community improvement projects.

“We decided as a group to target the historic city hall located on Main Street and work to create a new vision for that building which had been abandoned for years,” said Mayer.

Over a six-month period, CMSA board members worked through their project plan, gutting the building and working with a mold remediation contractor. Earlier this year, CMSA was awarded a CLG grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) and the Town of Como matched the grant specifically to replace the roof and continue work.

Mayer will speak specifically to investors, board members, and other communities about Como’s project results, ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the building and how ACLP impacted the board and local citizens.

Mayer says past and present volunteers and board members have been critical to sustained work, including Meg Bartlett, Patsy Brown, Mary Lipscomb, John Land, Alice Pierotti and Kole Conley all of whom participated either in Your Town or First Impressions.

“Everyone with CMSA is honored we are being invited to this conference. I personally believe strongly in The Institute’s principle that one person can make a difference. While money is nice and always helps, in the end, it’s all about who you are and what you do in a community that holds the greatest sustainable power.”

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