- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

ELAINE, Ark. (AP) - Residents of Elaine are working hard to put their tiny community back on the map one brick and one birdhouse at a time - literally.

During the past decade, the community of Elaine has lost its school and the windows on its former businesses are boarded up. At one time Elaine was a thriving Mississippi River Delta community with five grocery stores, restaurants and a movie theater.

However, according to Pat Kienzle, hope is not lost.

Affectionately known as the “Pickle Lady,” Kienzle hails from Fayetteville but has adopted Elaine as her hometown. She spends quite a bit of time with the townsfolk making plans for a revival of sorts through her involvement with the Lee Street Community Center.

Housed in a 2-room portable school building, the Lee Street Community Center is located at 211 Main Street. The non-profit organization is part of Together For Hope, Arkansas and was established in 2001, The Daily World (https://bit.ly/28OP0hX ) reported. The portable building was donated to the organization but more than $6,000 had to be raised to move it from Helena to Elaine in 2008. Hundreds of donated volunteer hours helped improve the structure.

The Lee Street Community Center provides activities for Elaine families when volunteer help is available. Currently, the organization has two major projects in the works - a birdhouse project and establishing a civil rights park, called Turning Point Park.

“After determining there is no birdhouse capital in America, the Community Center decided brightening the town with birdhouses would be an excellent project for teenage boys and girls,” related Kienzle.

Currently there are approximately 600 birdhouses in Elaine.

“At our Birdhouse Festival scheduled for October 1, the goal is to have 1,000 birdhouses in the 100 block of Main Street for a Guinness Book of World Records challenge,” she continued.

The theme of the proposed civil rights park is “Regret the Past, Hope for the Future 1919-2019 and Beyond.”

According to Kienzle it is not commonly known that Elaine was the site of one of this country’s worst racial conflicts on September 30, 1919 in which hundreds of blacks and a few whites were killed.

“A lot of people don’t want to discuss the incident, though eventually national attention will be directed this way,” said Kienzle. “We want to make a positive decision today from a regrettable incident of the past.”

She noted that no one is alive today that made any decisions or participated in the violence that occurred almost a century ago.

Plans call for building a short wall of old bricks, for each death (these will not have names) and one of new bricks with the name of child under age 18 currently living in Elaine. Funding, said Kienzle, also will be sought to buy outside musical instruments to be placed in the park.

“Of course, birdhouses and musical instruments cannot change the past but they can provide hope for the future,” she said.

“We are always in fund-raising mode for the work at the park,” commented Kienzle.

Last week the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame awarded a portion of $40,000 in grant money to the civil rights park project in Elaine. The park is one of 16 projects throughout the state to receive ABHOF funding. The specific amount of the grant was not reported.

Locally, special tickets to Southbound Pizza are being sold. The $20 ticket includes a free drink, three slices of pizza, and a donation to the Lee Street Community Center. It also enters the purchaser in a special drawing for door prizes. To buy a ticket and make reservations, contact Kienzle by June 18 at [email protected] or call 1-479-871-0076.

The tickets can be redeemed at Southbound Pizza between 6 and 8 p.m., June 22. Southbound Pizza is located on historic Cherry Street in Helena.

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Information from: The Daily World, https://www.helena-arkansas.com/

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