Click on the links below to read about just a few examples of community projects completed in coordination with our Strategic Plan.


Fort Curtis

The dilapidated Jefferson School was torn down in preparation for construction of the Union Fort Curtis, a key Civil War Helena site, in 2010. The new Union fort is one of the largest replica earthen-walled forts in the region, occupying the entire block. The story of the fort is unique since it was one of the few places in the South where African American troops were trained to become part of the USCT.

Sibley Quarters and Freedom Park

Sibley Quarters, a football-field sized slum right on the main entry into town from the bridge, was cleaned up in 2005. As a result, a significant eyesore along historic entry corridor is cleared in preparation for the new Freedom Park Civil War Helena site to be completed in 2012. Civil War Helena’s Freedom Park, the first “Network to Freedom” site in Arkansas, will tell the story of African-American experiences during the Civil War.


The VITA free tax return preparation program serves almost 1,000 Phillips County residents helping them receive more than $2 million in refunds and credits, a record year. Since 2005, the volunteers have completed more than 4,000 returns and helped families receive more than $7.5 million in refunds and credits.

Tax Returns
Million in
Refunds and Credits

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Biodiesel Plant

Completed in 2009, this $25 million, 40 million gallon facility completed testing in 2011 and added more than 40 jobs.

Helena River Park

A partnership with the Audubon Society produced 15 wildlife and nature panels in the River Park area.

Homebuyer and Credit Counseling

A record six home purchases in one year facilitated by the homebuyer and credit counseling program.

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10 Year Strategic Plan

Our second generation plan was developed over seven months of intensive planning. Each Goal Team updated their individual Mission Statements, and SWOT analyses were divided into program categories to allow Goal Teams to easily access this information.

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Months of

Phillips County Library

We replaced an abandoned grocery store with a modern library. As a result, we were able to convert an ugly, abandoned piece of commercial real estate in the heart of the historic district into a top-notch community asset on par with the best in any community of our size.

Buck Island

We secured public ownership for a unique Mississippi River island and boating destination just north of downtown Helena. Game & Fish provided a conservation easement for Buck Island to ensure that this resource remains in public hands Quapaw Canoe company leads day trips and overnight trips to Buck Island, providing a unique Mississippi River eco-tourism experience.

Buck Island

Great River Promise

A scholarship that covers full tuition for local community college and is modeled on the nationally renowned Kalamazoo Promise and El Dorado (AR) promise, this program enables all students who graduate from any Phillips County HS and meet a few other minimal criteria to attend Phillips Community College free of charge.

Great River Promise

Humane Society

Local non-profit secures partnership with city/county governments to invest $200,000+ in a county-wide animal control shelter/program.

Phillips County Incubator

A new downtown business incubator was formed in partnership with Phillips Community College and Thrive.

Phillips County Business Incubator

Helena Farmers Market

Finally adopting the right model and a part-time manager, the Market’s seven vendors attract more than 100 customers per week

Farmers Market

Blues Festival

This important festival celebrated a 25-year anniversary and had one of the strongest line-ups in the festival’s history. DBP grants paid for headliners; substantial staff technical assistance helped bring in a highly qualified director and put in place an annual audit, fiscal policies, and improved board governance.

King Biscuit Blues Festival" title="King Biscuit Blues Festival

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Court Square Park

We transformed an old abandoned lot into expanded park with Farmers Market pavilion. Formerly a site of urban decay with collapsed structures, trash thrown over fenced areas, and unwanted FEMA trailers, this centerpiece of our downtown has been transformed into a beautiful, useable park which now houses the Farmers Market, Civil War Helena markers, and the site of Helena on Ice Christmas Celebration.

Civil War Helena

An ambitious 29-site Civil War Helena plan was released at a July event attracting more than 300 people. The initiative is expected to draw more than 90,000 visitors annually at full scale. Catalyst sites include Fort Curtis, Freedom Park, Battery C, and Estevan Hall.
Civil War Helena Part 2 History

Helena Brand

A community branding firm completed a brand focusing on the themes of renewal and rhythm. Continuing the process of “getting on the same page” and “speaking with a unified voice,” Main Street Helena commissioned a brand study which produced a comprehensive unified brand for Helena and Phillips County which is being used in all official advertising and promotion of the community.

LEAD Education Program

This public education consulting program has led to statistically significant gains in test scores for students reached by the program.

Marvell Housing Units

Local non-profit secures partnership with city/county governments to invest $200,000+ in a county-wide animal control shelter/program.

Downtown Loan Fund

A $3 million low-interest downtown loan fund was created to spur investments in historic homes and downtown businesses.

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Downtown Master Plan

A master plan was completed for downtown Helena, including detailed branding, signage, and infrastructure recommendations. The process helped crystallize a three-pronged tourism strategy focusing on the Civil War, music and eco-tourism.

KIPP Gymnasium

This $3 million facility, supported by significant local donations, radically transformed the downtown approach corridor.

Boys & Girls Club Facility

The 19,000 square foot facility opened to 500+ members as another major infrastructural improvement for the community. The Club has gone on to win numerous regional and national awards for program excellence.

Quapaw Canoe Company

Helena is the only downtown on the river for the 300 miles between Memphis and Vicksburg. In addition, St. Francis National Forest hosts the confluence of the St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers as well as numerous boat access points. As such, we are in a unique position to capitalize on tourism from river and canoe enthusiasts.
This is the reason that John Ruskey decided to open a Helena Outpost (on Ohio Street) of his Clarksdale-based Quapaw Canoe Company.

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Carriage Square

Elegant Victorian Gardens were created in downtown Helena to complement Solomon House and historic Magnolia Hill Bed and Breakfast.

Tour da’ Delta

This Annual bike race was started, drawing several hundred visitors to Phillips County in memory of HRMC Administrator Tom Kinnebre.

Jazz on the Levee

On July 21, 2007, the inaugural Jazz on the Levee event took place. It has become an annual event.

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Helena-West Helena Unite

The two cities join together in the largest such consolidation in state history. This gave us a combined population that made us far more significant than either of the two cities alone.

Boys & Girls Club

The Club opens doors with 200+ members in a temporary facility, and it became a community institution.

KIPP: High School Expansion

While KIPP began operations in 2002, it expanded to include a HS in 2006 that drastically changed the image and prospects of the historic downtown and significantly contributed to the local economy and community leadership by employing and developing 92 people.

Sweet Potato Facility

This new facility created 25+ jobs and benefits local produce farmers. As a farmers’ co-operative, it helps smaller minority farmers realize greater profits from growing sweet potatoes.

Homebuyer and Credit Counseling

Initiated the Homebuyer and Credit Counseling service to help people purchase a home, retain their home, and repair or establish a good credit history.

Southern Place Apartments

20 high quality units of low-income housing were completed.

Mother’s Best Festival

An eclectic roots festival is started in downtown Helena. It has gone on to become an annual event.

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Strategic Plan

We created a plan to put us all on the same page, and we created a structured community development effort to help implement the plan. Over 300 residents came together to create our first detailed strategic community plan.

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Housing Cleanup

325+ properties were cleaned up. We began by cleaning the slate (and the clutter) to give people a blank canvas to work with and a sense of how beautiful our neighborhoods could be again. And, while there’s certainly more clean-up to be done, this was a very big step in the right direction.

Sibley Quarters

A significant eyesore along a historic entry corridor was cleared in preparation for the new Freedom Park Civil War Helena site.


In its second year of operation, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) free tax return preparation program serves 102 families.

Delta AHEC

Our high quality Dr. Vasudevan Wellness Center was completed. The Center addresses a key quality of life issue for many residents, having a quality place to exercise, and contributes to increased retention of residents.