A Word from Patricia Taylor Kienzle, known as “Pickle Lady” to her students
In 1998,P-I-C-K-L-E-S for Parents was the reason for the first trip from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Elaine, Arkansas. I was shocked by the contrast between the most prosperous and poorest part of the state. For the next years I came with groups or by myself, once or twice a year. We became a part of Together for Hope, a project in the 20 poorest counties of the U.S.
Then the school closed. The town became even poorer, as more businesses closed. Five grocery stores dwindled to none. The children rode the bus an hour to get to school. Back at home students had few, if any, positive activities. AND with the school closed we had no place to do activities.
Later I was introduced to George Andrew Gibson and his wife Catherine. That led to the organization of the Lee Street Community Center. A two-room portable school building was donated and over $6000 was raised to move it to Elaine, near two low-income apartment complexes. The building’s condition has been greatly improved by visiting groups.
When searching for an activity both teenage boys and girls would like, birdhouses were determined to be great. Then it was discovered there was not a Birdhouse capital in America. There are already over 500, but not all are displayed. A 50-house display was taken down with foreclosure of a building. We will have a Guinness Book of World Records challenge, if accepted by that organization. On June 11, 2016, at 1PM, there will be 1000 birdhouses on the 100 block of Main Street---500 displayed and 500 in a parade.
I had been visiting Elaine for about 7 years before learning about the 1919 race riot. That is not rare, as few people have heard of it. Recently more articles have appeared. The Equal Justice Initiative research determined 237 black residents lost their lives. It was far from most publicity, and both black and white residents did not talk about it. NO ONE is alive who had anything do with that horrible part of history. The Lee Street Community Center has a space on Main Street for a recognition garden. Our theme is “Regret for the Past, Hope for the Future.” We have a plan, but if the city would like to use it, it would represent more than just our community center: a wall or path with 237 old bricks and one new brick for each child under 18 in Elaine (with name engraved.) We want to give the residents a park area with outdoor musical instruments. They are very expensive, but this neglected town deserves something special.
I am now a part-time resident of Elaine, staying a week or so most month. I couldn’t do it without the support and encouragement of David, my husband of 43 years.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org birdhousesforelainear.com