Difference Maker: Becky Wiginton working to revitalize and promote Bollinger County

Becky Wiginton (Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer)

Becky Wiginton loves Marble Hill, Missouri. She doesn’t just say it. She shows it through countless hours spent volunteering, serving as Bollinger County Chamber president, coordinating community-wide holiday celebrations and running her own small businesses.

When Wiginton returned to her hometown in 2013, she found herself crying after going on a routine run down First Street. She said most of the buildings were vacant. As a Woodland High School 2000 graduate, it was not the bustling Marble Hill she remembered from childhood.

“I don’t want to change Marble Hill or change Bollinger County. What I really want to do is bring back what it was and respect the history,” Wiginton said.

Since 2016, when Wiginton accepted the Chamber presidency, Marble Hill has experienced substantial growth in small businesses — approximately 34 new businesses inside Marble Hill according to the Bollinger County Chamber of Commerce. Many of these businesses Wiginton worked directly with to help owners find buildings and get started on the process.

Wiginton says she’s noticed a lot of people moving into the Marble Hill community, and they are getting just as involved as those who grew up in the area.

“So, those kinds of people motivate me, too. [Those] that move in and see the potential for the community, ‘cause there’s a huge potential for our community,” Wiginton said.

Wiginton herself owns First Street Market and co-owns the Old Lutesville Emporium alongside business partner Lori Vandeven — both businesses on First Street in Marble Hill.

She knows what her community needs to grow and she advocates for it, which is why she has focused on improving broadband for Bollinger County, working with legislators and writing articles that explain the increased need for internet access — a need that was highlighted and escalated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wiginton is also involved with the University of Missouri Extension Council and multiple committees within and outside that organization. Her position as president of Bollinger County Chamber is a volunteer position, so all Chamber dues and fees can go to fund projects like the community gardens — which have free vegetables and fruit for community members to take.

“It’s a really awesome resource for people, especially our older population that lives on a fixed income and our middle income folks that wouldn’t qualify for assistance … and it is quality produce,” Wiginton said.

The five community gardens help improve the quality-of-life for residents of Bollinger County, along with the many holiday celebrations Wiginton has helped coordinate with her husband and Marble Hill Mayor Trey Wiginton.

They helped start Christmas in the Park a couple years ago, along with the Christmas Parade in 2020 and Santa’s House Display in 2022. They started the Mayor’s Easter Egg hunt, and coordinated with Woodland R-IV School District’s Special Education Department to create an Easter egg hunt for children with special needs.

Wiginton says she just helps coordinate these holiday events. It’s the community members who step up to make it happen.

After the Wednesday, April 5, tornado hit Bollinger County, Wiginton stepped into the role of donation coordinator. Wiginton says she vividly remembers hearing all the sirens that morning after the storm; she was devastated by what her community was going through, but inspired by the way they came together to help one another.

“I’ll do it. I’ll make coffee. I’ll scrub dishes. I don’t care. Whatever you need me to do,” Wiginton said when she was asked if she wanted to be in charge of food for volunteers during tornado clean-up efforts. Wiginton has also opened up her home for members of the community to take showers, after they’ve experienced power outages due to severe or cold weather. Last year, her family served food to the community after many were left without electricity and heat.

“You just have to do what you can to help your community and the members of your community,” Wiginton said.

On the morning of the interview for this story, Wiginton was out weed eating the property surrounding the food pantry in Marble Hill and cleaning up the grass around stop signs. If something needs to be done, Wiginton doesn’t wait around for it to be done — she gets it done.

Wiginton graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social science from Southeast Missouri State University in 2019. She worked in the Department of Social Services and the Department of Corrections. Although she doesn’t technically do social work anymore, she acts as a voice for the East Missouri Action Agency and local food pantry when they have specific needs. Recently, she put out a Facebook post about a shortage of laundry detergent at the food pantry and the next morning there were seven cases of it on her front porch.

Last summer, Wiginton began volunteering at Stonebridge Nursing Home in Marble Hill, and it’s now her favorite time of the week. She hosts a story hour on Monday mornings, sometimes gardening with the residents or bringing in special treats to celebrate occasions like Mother’s Day.

Wiginton deeply loves her community and the people in it. And more than anything, she wants to be available to those who need it.

“I want to be a friendly face to them [the community members],” Wiginton said. “Be somebody who they can come up to and say, ‘Hey I need help.’ And I’ll help them.”