Special thanks to Fred Padget for this History.
The first set of meeting minutes concerning the Westside Improvement Association are dated May 25, 1976 for a group called the West Side Litter Control Group. This group was a committee of the Westwood Garden Club created to act as a pressure group concerned with litter control and apparently the forerunner of the Westside Improvement Association. The meeting was held at the home of Shirley James on Middle Mt. Vernon Road. Attendees were Mary Griggs, Carolyn Scruggs, Eloise Werner and Shirley James.
Most of the documentation says Shirley organized WIA as an extension of the West Side Litter Control Group in 1976 and served as President for all but two of the next 20 years. Some documentation from minutes and/or newsletters indicates all but three of the next 20 years. Some of the confusion may be due to some records indicating she was Chairman, Executive Chairman or Acting Chairman during the early years of the WIA. Based on much research we believe she was President/Chair for a total of 18 years although not consecutively. Our file of meeting minutes go back to October 10, 1977 and the first addition of our newsletter, Volume one, number 1 was published in March 1978. Currently we are working on a memorial to Shirley on the USI/Burdette Pathway.
Shortly after organizing, the WIA became incorporated in the State of Indiana receiving a Certificate of Incorporation dated March 6, 1978 and signed by Larry Conrad, Secretary of State for Indiana. Shirley James, Fred Deutsch and Eloise Werner are named as the Incorporators and Carolyn Scruggs as the Resident Agent. With this the WIA became the Westside Improvement Association, Inc., of Evansville. Interestingly after being recognized by the state, the WIA apparently filed for 501-C-4 classification from the IRS. The 501-C-4 classification pertains to Civic Leagues, Social Welfare Organizations, and Local Associations of Employees. Shortly after that and with the help of Operation City Beautiful, WIA re-filed with the IRS requesting and receiving a 501-C-3 designation on June 12, 1981. The 501-C-3 designation is a Not-for-Profit Public Charity and the WIA continues in that capacity.
Since the beginning of the WIA there has existed a close and supportive relationship with Operation City Beautiful which became Keep Evansville Beautiful in 2004. Although the WIA has been involved with many activities over the years some others that come immediately to mind are being a driving force for construction of the Tekoppel overpass, helping Wesslemans Woods develop the Howell Wetlands, being involved with restoration of the Pagoda in 1995, an excellent continuing relationship with the University of Southern Indiana, involved from the beginning with United Neighborhoods of Evansville, working with neighborhoods within our boundaries, strong supporters of Mesker Zoo, Burdette Park, the Pigeon Creek Greenway and the USI/Burdette Pathway, helping with the Up-Side-Down House at Burdette, many land use issues, protecting the environment, participating for 30 years as of 2015 in the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival and supportive of many other west side assets and functions.
We are especially proud of our scholarship program where we provide financial help since at least 1998 to a graduating senior from the two high schools in our area; F J Reitz and Mater Dei high school.
From the beginning May 25, 1976 to this day we work hard to better our community.