North Springfield Betterment Association to celebrate 50 years promoting north side improvement

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 7:21 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The North Springfield Betterment Association will be celebrating its 50th anniversary Saturday, June 12, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Silver Springs Park. The community is invited to the free event to enjoy food, music and a short presentation regarding the history of the organization.

“NSBA has a long history of helping improve the quality of life for everyone in our community,” said Jacque Breedlove-Harness, NSBA President, in a press release. “Our Board of Directors and membership are excited to celebrate this milestone with our community.”

A time capsule that was placed in the historic courthouse rotunda during the 40th anniversary celebration will be opened and revealed at the 50th celebration. Community members are also invited to bring items to place back into the capsule, which will be open again in another decade.

“We have experienced a lot of positive growth in the past 10 years and are excited to see the items that were important to people that long ago,” Breedlove-Harness said. “It will also be interesting to witness the items our neighbors place in the time capsule now, especially since we have rallied together to endure a global pandemic in this past year. We are a strong, vibrant community and we hope to see our resilience and community bonding reflected when the time capsule is opened 10 years from now.”

“One thing about the north side of Springfield is there is a lot of pride,” added Kim Rippy, a long-time NSBA member.

And she said that’s what the North Springfield Betterment Association is about...promoting that pride in residents and business owners.

“It encourages them to be friendly, take care of their properties and bring businesses over here to us,” Rippy said.

North Springfield was once a separate town from Springfield, incorporated in 1871 after the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway built its railroad operation through the north part of Springfield instead of Springfield itself. The main street of North Springfield was Commercial Street, and Division Street now marks where the once separate city limits came together when the towns voted to consolidate in 1887.

But some aspects of that “division” still remain in a Hatfield-and-McCoy family feud kind of way. Some north side residents feel disrespected and believe the south side is shown favoritism. Some also feel that southsiders ignore the north side’s positive aspects like quaint, picturesque historic neighborhoods as well as new housing and instead focus on its lower socioeconomic areas and crime rate, which is higher on the north side than the south side.

But the association says it’s mission is to deliver a positive message about what the north side has to offer.

“We try to work hard on getting the word out. Don’t throw us under the bus all the time,” Rippy said. “It’s sad to me that for many years growing up I’d hear on the news if something bad happened, they’d just mention the street where it was. But if it was on the north side, they’d make sure to mention that. We’re a community in Springfield. If it’s bad it doesn’t have to just be the north side. Things are happening all over.”

“We try to avoid the stigma that it’s all high crime and a bad place to live because there’s a lot of really, really wonderful places to live, eat and play all day long,” said Marcy Dollens-Rear, another long-time NSBA member. “Commercial Street has a lot of businesses and restaurants and that is just a terrific place to spend your day and not be worried about crime.”

Commercial Street has certainly enjoyed a resurgence as the former main street of North Springfield still has an historic feel while featuring a variety of shops and sights. There’s an Ace Hardware store that’s been around for 124 years, still selling Grandma’s Lye Soap. Just down the street is an eating establishment named “That Lebanese Place”, the Springfield Mercantile Company that sells fresh organic textiles and natural home goods and a Pedalers Bicycle Museum that features bikes from a number of different time periods.

Rippy said one of the biggest misconceptions is that southsiders don’t see any reason to go to the north side to eat dinner.

“I live on the north side and I would drive 10-15 minutes to the south side to go to dinner any day of the week,” she said. “Do we have anything super special that you don’t have on the south side? I think so. We have great little hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pop restaurants over here.”

As part of its mission the North Springfield Betterment Association also honors children who achieve 99 percent attendance at the 13 north side elementary schools by giving them a party at the end of the school year.

“The goal of that attendance party was to improve graduation rates and it worked,” Dollens-Rear said. “Over 20 years we saw the graduation rates increase with Central and Hillcrest compared to the south side schools so we’re very proud of that.”

“These kids in our schools right now are our future employers and community leaders,” Rippy added.
“Those kids are growing up in north Springfield. They deserve wonderful things.”

And after 50 years, the North Springfield Betterment Association plans on keeping their mission alive for at least another half-century.

“Just anything to beautify and better north Springfield,” Dollens-Rear said. “That’s what we’re there to do.”

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