Hometown Spirit

By NIKKI ROWELL,

Children learning early value of Community Commitment through Junior Homeowners Association.

Residents and officials in the city of Madison talk a lot about having “hometown spirit.”

One resident started a group to foster that spirit in her neighborhood with the hope of its members carrying it out into other facets of the community.

Elizabeth Cobb, president of the Trace Vineyard Homeowner’s Association (HOA), started a junior HOA board in an effort to instill values and community pride in the children living in her subdivision.

The idea first came to Cobb about a year ago while the adult board was on break from meetings. Since the adults do not meet during the summer months, Cobb thought it would be fun to create a junior board that would meet over the summer while students are out of school.

Cobb, who moved to Madison in 2001 and has served on the subdivision board almost every year since, has children who have graduated high school, so she saw the community service hours that were needed and the importance of taking on leadership roles.

The junior HOA board is a way for members to learn those things at a young age.

“The dream or the idea in this service-oriented world that we live in, where children don’t get to graduate without service hours, was to teach the importance of that early,” Cobb said. “It has to start somewhere.”

Cobb sent out applications to join the junior board with the subdivision’s newsletter. The application featured questions like, “What characteristics and talents would you bring to the board?”

They got responses like: friendly, helpful, loving, responsible.

The board set aside an afternoon to hold interviews with the children who submitted applications. During the interviews, they also gave speeches about why they wanted to join.

“We told them at the end that we would have to get back with them, because that’s how these things work. We tried to keep it as professional as possible,” Cobb said.

The formal interview was a way to show them how job interviews work and the importance of being professional and prepared.

There are seven on the junior board, which they call the founding members, including Chapel Edgar, 11; Miller Ethridge, 11; Morgan Hollings, 10; Eliza Grace Ethridge, 9; Esther Edgar, 8; Noel Edgar, 7; and Harper Lee Sims, 7.

Morgan Hollings serves as president. Miller Ethridge is the vice president, and Gracie Ethridge is secretary. Chapel Edgar is the treasurer.

Esther Edgar is the assistant vice president. Noel Edgar is assistant treasurer. Harper Lee Sims is co-secretary.

Cobb created the group hoping to teach them responsibility and punctuality, as they plan events for the community and take part in monthly meetings.

“We have a hard start and stop,” Cobb said. “And you have to be on the agenda if you have stuff to talk about. It teaches time management and listening skills. So, we’re listening to everyone’s ideas and being kind and weighing the pros and cons of each.”

Cobb hopes the group instills in them a sense of pride and ownership in where they live.

“You will never teach anyone how to serve or how to give back to their community if they never did or learned how,” she added. “In a neighborhood, it’s more and more important in this day and age that you do know your neighbors, that you keep an eye out. And not in a nosy kind of way, but in a, ‘Can I help you?’ or ‘I’ve noticed you’ve been sick’ or anything.”

The organization has been well received at Trace Vineyard, according to Cobb.

They meet once a month in May, June, July and December, when they area out of school.

“We planned to plan three distinct things that would work for them to do,” she said. “They planned the Fourth of July parade. They called the police station and asked for the motorcycle officers to come be escorts. They called the fire station to get the fire truck to come. They contacted the snow cone people to come set up.”

Cobb also worked with the girls to help them learn to budget for the event and figure up how much they would need for the snow cones, décor and prizes.

Next, they want to plan a cleanup day for the lake in their neighborhood to pick up sticks and pine cones and clean up the area.

“We have a lawn care service, but this is something they wanted to do as a service project,” Cobb said.

At Christmas, Cobb is planning a fun meeting to celebrate the girls’ hard work. The girls also want to start a caroling group to spread Christmas cheer through their neighborhood in song.

“They want to lead it and the adults stay at home and them walk the neighborhood singing,” she said.

The group even took a trip to visit Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s office and attended a city board of aldermen meeting.

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