[EDITOR’S NOTE: The author is a member of the Carolina RCDC]
Rural Community Development Councils, or RCDCs, have been a been bringing rural communities in Itawamba County together since 1925, according to records provided by the Itawamba Historical Society.
Currently, Itawamba has four active RCDCs – Pleasant Grove, Carolina, Ryan’s Well and Houston. Each group holds meetings at designated times to express concerns, solve problems within their communities, raise funds for needs in their area and simply enjoy the fellowship of their neighbors. The organizations fall under the umbrella of the Itawamba County Development Council, and the organization’s executive director, Vaunita Martin, said they are an instrumental part of improving the quality of life in some of Itawamba’s most isolated areas.
“The RCDCs are the bedrock of our communities,” Martin said. “They know the people and know their needs. If we need something communicated or done, we can count on them.”
Pleasant Grove RCDC
Fresh off the heels of their annual Christmas parade, members of the Pleasant Grove RCDC are energized and ready for the new year. This year’s parade, the group’s single largest event of the year, was strong, and the parade’s organizer and group vice president, Mary Jo Heard, told The Times they were pleased with both the number of onlookers and participants.
One of those participants was Clytee Nichols, who celebrated her 100th birthday by participating in the small community’s annual parade.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” Heard said. “We look forward to [the parade] every year and look forward to having others come out and join in.”
Pleasant Grove RCDC holds its meetings the first Monday night of every month at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is held in the Pleasant Grove Community Center on Pleasant Grove Road in southwest Itawamba County. Their gathering begins with a potluck meal followed by fellowship and often a guest speaker.
For more information contact Larry Nichols at 662-963-1421.
Ryan’s Well RCDC
Verdie Dickens serves as secretary for Ryan’s Well RCDC and says their group just completed one of its most eventful and successful years. After their building was vandalized in 2018, the group pulled together with volunteers to paint and repair the building that once served as the area’s schoolhouse.
“We hosted the annual banquet this year and in November, we honored our veterans, firefighters, law enforcement officers and Tombigbee Electric Power Association employees,” she said.
The 2019 Annual RCDC Banquet set a record of 135 attendees and gave Ryan’s Well members an opportunity to show off their newly renovated facilities.
“We have some new members that have joined us,” Dickens said. “We hope to have more in the days ahead.”
Members of the Ryans Well RCDC meet in the old Ryan’s Well schoolhouse, located 11738 John Rankin Highway, on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. A potluck meal is held prior to the meeting.
For more information, contact Verdie Dickens at 662-231-2560.
Houston RCDC held its 5th Annual Turkey Trot in November. It was followed by a fish fry that afternoon.
Carolyn Hood, secretary for the group, told The Times those two events are their main fundraisers each year. Funding from those events are used to make repairs and renovations to the RCDC facilities.
“In 2019, we replaced all the lights and light poles at the Houston RCDC Ballfield,” Hood said. “We also replaced the fence around the field and painted the concession stand and dugouts with the help of the [ICDC] Jr. Leadership team.”
The group also spruced up the grounds of the Houston Community Center by landscaping the area surrounding the community center’s new sign.
Just a few short days after hosting a candidate speaking and barbecue dinner, the Houston RCDC’s pavilion was completely destroyed when a storm blew a tree across the structure. Getting it replaced is now a priority for the group.
“We have been able to get these projects done because of the dedication of people in our community,” Hood said. “We have wonderful support from individuals, our fire department and Vaunita and Miss Ann at the ICDC. We couldn’t do it without their help.”
The group meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. and begins with a fellowship meal. The meeting portion of the program begins at 7. Their community center is located at 4244 Houston Palestine Road.
“We’d love to have others join us,” Hood said.
For additional information on their meeting and events, call 662-401-9397.
The Carolina RCDC meets the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. Like other county RCDCs, the group is fully dependent upon fundraisers for maintenance and upkeep on their meeting place, the old Carolina schoolhouse.
Twice a year, the group opens its door to guests to enjoy a local take on the popular musical/comedy show, “Hee Haw.”
“The funds we raise are used to make much-needed repairs and to keep our historic building in the best shape we can,” said Donna Ray, secretary for the group. “We have a wish list of things we’d like to do down the road, but they will take time.”
Not every event the group does is to raise big funds; some are just for fun. Carolina’s Monday Night Jam brings in musicians from across North Mississippi every Monday night.
This event has been a staple of the Carolina RCDC for more than 11 years. The night begins with a potluck meal at 6 p.m., followed by line dancing lessons and the musician jam session.
“You won’t find anywhere else that offers food and entertainment for $3,” Ray said.
Carolina Community Center is located at 3375 Carolina Road. For more information on their events call 662-213-7725.
The bedrock of Itawamba CountyAt one point in Itawamba County’s history, there were upwards of 12 local RCDCs, representing all corners of the county.
Although their numbers have dwindled over the generations, the roles Itawamba County’s RCDCs play in shaping the communities they represent haven’t diminished in the least. Often, RCDCs are the go-to organizations when looking to reach out to the people who live in the most rural parts of the county.
This year, the local RCDCs will play an integral part collecting data for the 2020 national census. Members of the four remaining RCDCs will meet with county leaders to set up locations for registering in their areas. Their part in the process will help the county secure much-needed government funding by making sure their area is properly counted.
Some 95 years after they were created, Itawamba County’s Rural Community Development Councils still have a role to play in shaping its future.
“Our RCDCs play such an important part of our county as a whole,” Martin said. “We look forward to continuing to work with them and having their support.”