Helena City Council praises strength of city’s community

Published 1:42 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

HELENA – The Sept. 27 meeting of Helena’s City Council had many milestones attached to it, but the general theme was strength in community.

Lead pastor of the Church at Old Town, Josh Knierim, spoke to the Council about the church’s mission to strengthen and grow community through faith. The church was formerly known as Helena Baptist Church and transitioned to the Church at Old Town approximately three months ago. Knierim expressed three key values that the church plans to invest in: community engagement, strengthening families and investing in the next generation.

“We learned during quarantine that the relationships we have with our family are very important, so we look forward to working with families in the community, helping parents learn what it means to be a parent, helping couples learn how to be supportive spouses, and we also want to address how the gospel impacts mental health and how that impacts our relationships with people.”

Knierim said the church’s congregation has grown from originally 30 members to 150 members, and the church looks forward to continuing to grow.

Mayor Brian Puckett proclaimed Sept. 27 as Family Day, and the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 2 is Family Week in the city of Helena. Puckett said the idea was pushed forward by State House Representative Kenneth Paschal. The city of Helena is partnering with Compact, a law enforcement unit made up of different municipality officers across Shelby County, to encourage Family Day and Family Week interactions. Natalie Steed and Michael Nelson of Compact were in attendance for the proclamation.

“Family Week is about getting parents to sit down with their kids,” Nelson said. “Parent involvement with their children where they can sit down at the dinner table and have a conversation. Put the phones away, put the games away, just sit down and have a conversation as a family.”

Puckett also proclaimed Oct. 1 would be known as Down Syndrome Day, and also the month of October as National Down Syndrome Month in the city of Helena.

Several Helena families whose children have Down Syndrome came to the front of the room to express gratitude to the proclamation.

“As you can see, this is all about family, not just family units, but the Down Syndrome family of Helena,” said Scott Shunnarah, a Helena father whose child has Down Syndrome. “October is recognized as Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and as you can see this is only a small sample but we have a big community of people who have Down Syndrome in Helena. Thank you to everybody. We’re real excited and honored to be in a community that is open to inclusion and awareness and accepting people of all abilities.”

“This is truly a great thing,” said Puckett. “The city of Helena has a very strong community, and we want all of you to be able to rely on the community,” Puckett said.

Another milestone in the meeting was the amendment to the 2022 Fiscal Year budget, which was amended to include a $32,000 sensory inclusion trailer to provide individuals with sensory disabilities a safe yet inclusive place for them during overwhelming public events.

“This sensory trailer is to provide an outlet for those of our community who have invisible disabilities and visible disabilities,” said Councilmember Leigh Hulsey. “It’s to provide an outlet for them as a lot of public events that go on in schools or the city are extremely challenging for individuals who have those disabilities, and often times it keeps them from being engaged in our community. This is a way to be more inclusive of the particular community that we have a fairly large number who can utilize this service.”

In closing comments, Councilmember Chris VanCleave praised the members of the community for working with the Council on making Helena the well-rounded community it is.

“I think Mr. Shunnarah said it best tonight that tonight celebrates family,” VanCleave said. “And to see these wonderful organizations and families that come before us for support, I’m just so proud to live in a city that embraces ability and diversity on all levels.”

Alice Lobell gave a shout out to her Teen Council members and their hard work with last weekend’s Buck Creek Festival.

“Buck Creek was awesome. This city is awesome,” she said. “We have so many great things coming up. I’m just glad to be a part of the city, and I’m grateful to everyone here who supports what the city does.”