By Bobby Pepper/Lee County Neighbors

Sixteen people gathered April 5 at Lawndale Presbyterian Church to discuss how to make Tupelo a better place to live.
The people came from different neighborhoods throughout the city. But as they sat around the table and discussed their projects, they were unified as one “team” for Tupelo.
The group meeting at Lawndale Presbyterian Church was the city’s Resident Leadership Committee, also referred to as “Team Tupelo.” The RLC/Team Tupelo is a subsidiary of the Neighborhood Development Corporation, a non-profit organization whose members and volunteers are involved with their neighborhood associations and other community related groups and events.
For seven years the RLC/Team Tupelo has organized events in the neighborhoods and the city to inspire resident involvement. Now, the group is preparing for a major project: starting a leadership training program for youth and adults to benefit each neighborhood and the entire city for years to come.
To help fun the project, the RLC/Team Tupelo is competing for a $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. Online voting will determine if the group wins the grant.
The RLC members are like the group’s president, Pat Pearce. They’re passionate about improving the quality of life in the city and their respective neighborhoods.
“My drive, desire, goal and ambition is to help people,” the Wilemon Acres resident said. “So when I got involved in this, I was looking for something to help with the community and to help all of us have a better place to live.”

Open to everyone
The RLC is made up of residents from the city’s 15 neighborhood associations. According to city statistics, almost 20,000 Tupelo residents live in the neighborhood association areas.
Pearce, a Wilemon Acres resident, said the RLC/Team Tupelo is not an exclusive group.
“I think there are a lot of people in Tupelo who have no idea what this is about,” she said. “The Resident Leadership Committee is open to any resident in the city of Tupelo that wants to come.”
The RLC in the past has sponsored community-building events like a back-to-school giveaway of supplies, a Christmas tree trimming contest and a Tupelo Idol talent show. Many of the RLC officers have been through leadership education seminars at annual Community Leadership Institute gatherings.
Now, the RLC and the Mayor’s Taskforce on Neighborhoods want to pass the leadership skills to more Tupeloans so they can become leaders.
“We want to develop a leadership program that will train our citizens about the city,” Pearce said.
According to Pearce and Rubye Del Harden, chair of the Mayor’s Taskforce on Neighborhoods, strong leadership means stronger neighborhoods and a stronger Tupelo. Listed on the TeamTupelo.com website are components of the program being prepared by Harden:
• Leadership Skills Training
• Education about city government and the resources and people available to help the Neighborhood Associations.
• Education about the city agencies and organizations and the resources and people available to help the Neighborhood Associations.
• Networking with all city leaders to create stronger connections for all neighborhoods.
• Projects which will be done that will benefit all of the neighborhood associations.
Twenty-five residents will be selected for the program, according to Harden. They’ll be divided into five squads and work as teams.
“It’s similar to community, city and county leadership programs that we do throughout the state,” Harden said. “And while they’re doing that, they will be learning personal leadership skills as well.
“They’ll each have a project that will benefit all of the associations,” she added. “As they become more and more trained, they’ll go back into their own associations and know better how to maximize the positive impact the projects they do in their own associations.”
Harden said the RLC’s leadership will be valuable aids to the new crop of neighborhood leaders. It may also inspire sections of the city not involved in the neighborhood association to create their own.
“All of the people who are on this committee are already leaders who’ve said, ‘I want to help. I want to be a part of a greater thing’,” she said. “If there are other neighborhoods who are not in the association right now, we’d like to help them establish an association.”
Pearce said a youth division to teach the city’s future leaders will be just as important as the adult committee.
“If we don’t train our youth, what kind of legacy are we leaving them,” she asked. “To me, that’s one of the most important things that we can leave.”

Seeking grant
While the city plans to go ahead with the leadership training, both Pearce and Harden said it would be a boost if it gained an additional 25 grand through the Pepsi Refresh Everything grant.
“They can help us,” she said. “That’s the only way we can win is by their votes.”
It’s vital for residents to vote daily for Team Tupelo along with other non-profits seeking grants from the soft drink company, Pearce said. April 30 is the deadline for this month’s voting, with some of the top vote-getters continuing in the contest through May.
Pearce said if the grant can be won if Tupelo’s residents pull together as a team with the goal of making it a better place to live.
“It’s kind of like what John F. Kennedy said,” Pearce said. “In our case, it’s ask not what your city can do for you. Ask what you can do for your city.”

Contact Bobby Pepper at (662) 678-1592 or at bobby.pepper@djournal.com

Cast your vote
Vote everyday for Team Tupelo and other Lee County non-profits seeking Pepsi Refresh Project grants.
Team Tupelo:
Click here to vote for Team Tupelo.
Autism Center of Tupelo:
Click here to vote for autism.
NMMC Cancer Center Barbershop Talk:
Click here to vote for Barbershop.