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Making A Difference Where You Live is KSMU's quarterly series which introduces you to Ozarkers making their communities better places in which to live. I'm Mike Smith, and today we travel 82 miles east of Springfield to Willow Springs Missouri, population 2,147.
"We're a bunch of good people" says Willow Springs native Joan Bailey Russell, who is one of the most active citizens in the city. Joan Bailey Russell is a member of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks-Willow Springs Board of Governors, Rotary, (she's the incoming President) Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, the Willow Springs Senior Center, and the high school Scholarship Club.
Near and dear to Bailey-Russell's heart is the restoration of the historic Star Theater, located on Main Street in downtown Willow Springs. Funding for the project has been provided through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks Christine N. Steele fund for the Willow Springs Arts Council. Joan Bailey Russell remembers visiting the Star Theater as a youth and watching Gone With the Wind, Giant, and movie musicals with stars like Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers. She says today, the Star Theater is "A primary source of entertainment for the whole community, and when I say whole community I mean Willow Springs, Houston, West Plains, Mountain View, Mountain Grove and Cabool. We put on around 6 plays a year which brings children, high school students, and adults together for the productions. They serve as cast members, set designers, electricians, lighting technicians and we even have a high school student who has written a play. We also schedule Bluegrass performances which brings people in from as far away as Arkansas and St. Louis." Bailey-Russell says the 200 seat theater is usually sold out when any type of performance is scheduled.
Phil Knott, President of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks-Willow Springs, says the Star Theater restoration is paid for "...100% by the community. Not one federal, state or city penny has gone into the project." All the money used has been donated or raised by area citizens, then managed and distributed by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
Steve Norman is Secretary-Treasurer of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks-Willow Springs. He says the future of the community is "Dependant upon the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and proper funding". He says because of the CFO, "The Arts are thriving in Willow Springs."
For information about the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, www.cfozarks.org.
For KSMU and Making a Difference Where You Live, I'm Mike Smith.