Monday, January 8, 2018
Every year the local Chamber of Commerce picks a man and woman of the year. Usually, although not always, it's a chamber member who has done a number of things to make this community and/or the Chamber of Commerce better. In most cases, it's someone who has raised lots of money for worthy causes.
This year a woman has been nominated who is not in the chamber and is not a big-time fundraiser. Hannah Mills is more down to earth than that. But her contributions to this community have paved the way for many of the great things going on here today.
She opened her novelty/costume shop, "The Hot Springy Dingy," in 1979 in the 100 block of Central Avenue. In those days, that neighborhood was mostly strip clubs in buildings that were long overdue for renovation. Less than three years later, she spearheaded a grass roots drive to spruce up that end of the avenue. She got dozens of volunteers to scrape, paint and repair the fronts of the buildings. The next year, she helped organize the New Downtown Merchants Association -- now known as the Downtown Association of Hot Springs.
In 1984, she was instrumental in organizing a series of town crisis meetings that led to the development of the Main Street program and eventually the Central Business Improvement District, which was the catalyst for real downtown renovation. She served on the Hot Springs/Garland County Beautification Commission and helped sponsor the Wildflower Project and Tri Lakes Cleanup. In 1991, in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans Association, Southern Technical College and DAHS, she helped form Project Family Support to help with food, supplies and community support for local veterans and their families.
Over the years, Hannah was instrumental in forming numerous festivals, including: The Taste of Downtown, Spring Fling, Downtown Haunted House, Easter in the Park, Christmas Candlelight Walk, the Fun Festival and downtown holiday luminaries to name a few.
During this time, her business was flooded out, burned out, robbed and then, in 1994, the mountain collapsed on the Hot Springy Dingy, killing one of her employees.
But Hannah is not one to be deterred. In 1995, she and David moved their business to Park Avenue, where she formed the Park Avenue Green Market, helped organize the Spring Clean Up and worked with the city of Hot Springs to form a plan to revitalize Park Avenue. As part of the Park Avenue Community Association, she spearheaded Summerfest and is currently working to bring new historic lighting to Uptown.
In other words, Hannah is not raising big bucks for charity. But for 40 years, she has been in the trenches helping make Hot Springs a better town. When I told her she deserves to be honored for what she has done, Hannah said, "I don't look back. I look forward!"
Over the years, Hannah's standard mantra has always been, "Look guys, we can do this!" Those are the words of a great woman!
Hot SpringsEditorial on 01/08/2018
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