Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

Leadership Texas members, including ASPSF’s Wendy Stotts (second from left), and employees of Parkerson Lawn and Landscape and Red River Softwash take a break from working on the Amtrak station’s landscaping and brick washing.

For the past 43 years, Leadership Texarkana has welcomed local leaders who want to take personal responsibility for the future of their community. One of these local leaders was Wendy Stotts, Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund’s Development Manager.

Wendy and 48 other Texarkana-area residents met monthly over the past year to not only develop their leadership skills but also put them into action. The Leadership Texarkana Class of 2022 devised seven Strategic Doing initiatives to support the region’s economic growth.

Wendy and seven of her classmates chose to improve the exterior of the Amtrak station in downtown Texarkana — and found many community residents ready to help! They raised nearly $10,000 for the project, and local businesses donated labor and materials. In fact, thanks to local support, the project was voted into the Top 10 in the nationwide Main Street Contest sponsored by Independent We Stand.

Learn more about Wendy and the ongoing improvement project in the Q&A below.

How did you and your teammates come up with the idea to beautify the Amtrak station?

At the fall retreat, we were asked: “Imagine Texarkana was renowned for its Beauty. What would that be like?” One of our team members brought our attention to the less-than-quality appearance of the Amtrak station in downtown Texarkana. After a site visit and brainstorming, we determined that our team of eight would work toward the improvement of the exterior of the station. The station is located in a historic building, Union Station, that is in severe disrepair. 

Our project needed to be completed within the program timeframe for Leadership Texarkana, so we focused specifically on working with the building owner and Amtrak to beautify the exterior of the station.

Why is improving the Amtrak station important to the Texarkana community?

The area around the Amtrak station serves as the introduction to Texarkana for travelers passing through and as the leisure destination for rail enthusiasts. As downtown Texarkana revitalization progresses, the train station is important in representing both our past and our future as a hub city in the southern United States.  

The Amtrak station in downtown Texarkana welcomes visitors to the city.

How did the local business community support the project?

Existing landscaping has been cleaned up through the generosity of Parkerson Lawn and Landscape. New plants and installation labor have been provided by Cox Exterior Design and Development. Softwashing of the exterior brick is being donated by Red River Softwash.

What was the biggest challenge?

Our process required collaboration with multiple entities, including the city of Texarkana Ark. historic preservation committee. Agreement on the sign design was the most challenging part of the process. I learned that projects and progress take considerably longer in Texarkana because of the two city governments — one city, two city governments — Texarkana, Ark., and Texarkana, Texas. It’s a unique situation. It’s not impossible to make progress, it’s just much slower than when one city government is involved.

Wendy Stotts and members of her Leadership Texarkana team raised $10,000 to beautify the Amtrak station in downtown Texarkana.

What’s next for the project?

Plans include installing an awning for protection from the weather; installing festive lighting with materials and labor donated by Urban Lighting; repainting the exterior of the building where the station is located; and restriping the parking lot. When the project is complete, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held.

How did attending Leadership Texarkana and working on this project help you in your role at ASPSF?

It is my job to find the funds for single parent student scholarships. I write funding applications in pursuit of grant dollars to support ASPSF. I build relationships with businesses, individuals, and organizations in an effort to secure funds. But one of the challenges we face in sharing ASPSF is that so many communities are unaware of our organization.

The prestige and publicity surrounding my inclusion in the LT Class of 2022 helped raise awareness of who ASPSF is and how we serve single parent students — and it also opened doors for me to the businesses of my classmates that were potential donors to ASPSF. Forming relationships with my classmates, working on projects together, and forming friendships has allowed for and continues to allow for a warm introduction to ASPSF.

Residents walk by the Amtrak station in downtown Texarkana.

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