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Townsfolk boost pride by hanging banners, cleaning Main Street

MONROE - One by one, 12 colorful banners were attached to telephone poles along Main Street on Saturday morning.

As he helped Pete Salerno hang a banner just south of Monroe High School, Quintin Kreth said he hopes the banners become a source of community pride.

"We want people to notice what goes on here," Kreth said. "We want people to get more involved and help increase our civic pride."

Kreth, who graduated from MHS two weeks ago, is part of a group of south Benton County residents working to beautify downtown Monroe and draw more business to town.

Each different-colored banner has its own design that represents south Benton County and its history. For example, red banners feature steamboats, which used to travel the Long Tom River.

Banners first appear at the north part of town by the high school; the last one is displayed at the junction of Highway 99W and Territorial Highway.

The banner project is the first of several initiatives being planned by community members who are participating in a five-year Ford Institute leadership program.

The program, offered by the Ford Family Foundation, aims to help community members develop their leadership skills by working together on projects. The Ford Family Foundation's mission is to enhance rural communities in Oregon through grants and programs.

The past year and a half, south Benton residents raised more than $4,500, enabling them to receive a matching grant from the Ford Family Foundation to help pay for the banners.

"We actually raised enough money that we could add more banners," said Monroe resident Sharon Kavanagh. "So if a group such as the high school wants to put up a banner, we have the ability to do that."

The other two banners, in gold and green, feature herons and farms. Both are common to Monroe and the Long Tom River.

In addition to hanging the banners Saturday, community members helped tidy sidewalks and clean streets. A community barbecue was scheduled for 11:30 a.m., after all the banners were hung and the cleanup work completed.

Sabrina Sparks used a rotary edger to clean cracks in a section of sidewalk. At 16 years old, the MHS senior-to-be was one of the youngest community members to participate in the Ford Family Foundation program. She said she enjoyed getting to know her neighbors better.

"Monroe's a small town, so you pretty much know everyone," Sabrina said. "But it was good to connect with people you don't know as well. This really brought the entire community together."

Raju Woodward can be contacted at 758-9526 or raju.woodward@lee.net.

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