Chillicothe’s main Streets Chillcitohe was recently awarded The Outstanding Community Education Campaign award for its Historic Preservation program and the late Kelly Poling was posthumously awarded the Volunteer of the Year award.

Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) presented downtown revitalization awards on July 25, recognizing revitalization excellence during the annual Missouri Main Street Conference in St. Louis.

Missouri Main Street Connection is a non-profit designed to help communities preserve their historic commercial districts through economic revitalization. Based on economic data collected from the communities in the top three tiers of the Missouri Main Street program, since 2006, $771 million of private investments have been made in the Main Street communities. Public investments by municipal governments have totaled $169 million in improvements to infrastructure. Missouri Main Street programs have also successfully created 775 net new businesses and 3,873 net new jobs.

Since 2006, Main Street Chillicothe has worked hard to preserve and revitalize downtown Chillicothe. Since then the group has collaborated with local businesses and private citizens, and because of the hard work the downtown area has continued to grow and flourish resulting in positive outcomes for the community, including 275 net new jobs; 61 net new businesses; 36,250 volunteer hours and public and private investments totaling $13,462,525. Since 2006, through Main Street Chiloicothe’s Facade Renovation program there have been 90 building rehabilitations; and the vacancy rate in Chillicothe has fallen from 24 percent down to 3 percent. Main street Chiklioehte hosts or co-hosts 15 downtown events annually.

The ceremony Thursday night also honored communities, individuals, businesses, and organizations from across the state that have completed exemplary work in downtown revitalization. Competitive nominations were submitted for projects, activities and individuals in 14 different categories that covered aspects of design, economic vitality, organization, promotion, and other efforts in downtown revitalization.

The Outstanding Community Education Campaign award was presented to Main Street Chillicothe for their Historic Preservation program.

Main Street Chillicothe understands that educating the community is essential for not only the success of their organization, but also downtown Chillicothe. One of the key components of this education process is historic preservation, a key tenant of the Main Street movement.

In May of 2018, Main Street Chillicothe took advantage of the “This Place Matters” roadshow sponsored by Missouri Main Street Connection to further educate the community on the benefits and practices of historic preservation. Local fifth-graders were chosen to participate in a downtown history and architectural tour including an interactive scavenger hunt. This allowed the students to learn about the history of key buildings of downtown. The goal was to instill in the students a sense of pride in the history of the community. Main Street Chillicothe found that the students were highly engaged, inquisitive, and asked many questions during the event.

Additionally, Main Street Chillicothe created videos of key downtown buildings to share via social media for the community. Each video highlighted the building’s history as well as its current use. Thousands were reached by the videos achieving the organization's goal of further educating the public on the importance of historic preservation.

The late Kelly Poling was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award. A press release from Missouri Main Street Connection, announcing the award, said, “Poling exemplified what a Main Street volunteer should be in his selfless giving of his time and talent to Main Street Chillicothe. Though he is greatly missed by all who knew him, Kelly’s incredible legacy through his art and community revitalization will live on for many years to come!

“Kelly lent his artistic talents to the community through work on the first mural painted in downtown Chillicothe. From this a partnership between Kelly and Main Street Chillicothe was born leading to 24 murals painted throughout downtown over 18 years. Each mural tells a story of Livingston County history and brings thousands of visitors a year. Kelly would give tours to busloads of people, helping to explain each mural and provide a unique perspective for his audience. Kelly was so much more than his murals though, he was truly an advocate for both the community and Main Street Chillicothe. In 2018, Kelly reached an even broader nationwide audience by leading a tour for the Main Street Now conference held in Kansas City as well as an educational session for the conference. It is because of Kelly that the arts now plays a crucial role in Chillicothe’s economic development efforts. In 2015, the Cultural Corner Art Guild and Gallery was formed out of a need for the increasing demand of artist workspace in

Chillicothe. The $750,000 rehabilitation project allowed the organization a place to serve as a hub for artists in northwest Missouri. It also anchors the Kelly Poling Arts District, a corridor in downtown Chillicothe that helps to celebrate and cultivate the arts. Kelly and his work served largely as the catalyst for these projects.

“Kelly’s leadership throughout his life had a great impact on his entire community especially downtown Chillicothe. In his recent death, Kelly has left an empty place in his community that will be impossible to fill and a legacy that will be celebrated by all who come to Chillicothe and enjoy the work he did.”