:: Articolo tratto dal Kansas City Star del 24 Aprile 2004 ::

Sheryl Crow's hometown benefits from her success

Associated Press

KENNETT, Mo. - Sheryl Crow recalls her childhood as a pretty normal one: "I ran around until dark with my friends without fear. I rode my bike behind the mosquito truck. I swam on the swim team."

Plenty of celebrities say they remember their roots. Crow, a big star from a small town, certainly hasn't forgotten hers.

She's a regular visitor to Kennett, her Bootheel hometown of 11,260 that's known for the wide-open cotton fields on its outskirts. It's where much of her family still lives.

It's a town that's benefited from raising a nine-time Grammy winner. Since becoming a star, Crow has done much for her home region: given benefit concerts, funded scholarships, donated clothes for charity and pledged funds to help build a new city swimming pool about a block off the town square.

Residents call Kennett a great place to raise a family, but there's no question some in the community struggle. Dunklin County had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in March, more than 2 percent higher than the state average. In the 2000 census, the average Kennett family was living on about $41,350 a year at a time when the Missouri average was roughly $58,000.

"As I travel all through the United States, I feel like we're so representative of so many communities out there, fighting to keep their vitality and their growth going, especially with the economy as it is," she told a crowd of 900 last week when she was honored at a Kennett Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Crow has sold millions of albums since she released "Tuesday Night Music Club" in 1993, and recorded many hits since, including "If It Makes You Happy" and "My Favorite Mistake." But Kennett residents said when she's home, this is no superstar, she's just Sheryl. They provide no reports of her swanning around town like a diva, just sightings at local stores or with her family at holiday church services.

Sheryl is one of four children from a musical family. Her brother, Steve, owns a construction company in town. Her father is a lawyer; her mother is active with her church and community groups, and teaches piano.

Her sister, Kathy, is a songwriter and performer; her sister, Karen, is a music teacher in nearby Cape Girardeau. Sheryl said it was Karen, not her, who was considered the music department standout when she attended the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Sheryl's mother, Bernice, said her daughter wrestles with whether to reveal her financial involvement in the community. She said Sheryl publicly attached her name to the city pool plan because several people believed it would raise the project's profile. At the very least, it increased the number of local references to "Soak Up the Sun" - another Crow hit.

There's no set time frame for completing the pool, but the hope is that in addition to giving families a place to swim, it will encourage residents to spend time in Kennett's downtown square, which is hurting as more businesses pop up farther from downtown.

"I'd like to think a lot of the things she's done are not known, but it's a small town, so you never know," Crow's mother said.

She and others stress that many residents work hard to help in Kennett, not just the well-known hometown girl. But Crow's impact can definitely be felt around town.

A store in the town square, Bank of Antiques, offers quite a collection of Crow's clothes, including a sheer black Versace dress, a burgundy suede Dolce & Gabbana coat, and even a Michael Jackson tour jacket, decorated with dozens of pins from concerts and travels.

These aren't the average castoffs, they're "Sheryl Apparel" - clothes donated by the rock star that are sold, with the proceeds for Delta Children's Home, a temporary residence for area foster children. Her fans have given thousands to the home as well, in honor of Crow's birthday.

As the jacket attests, while Crow may have gotten her start in Los Angeles doing a Toyota jingle in the late 1980s, her big break came when she was selected as a backup singer for Michael Jackson's "Bad" tour.

Crow still drives a Toyota, a hybrid Prius. And she likely gave away the concert jacket only because she knew it could bring a lot for the children's charity, said Bank of Antiques owner Mary Jo Byrd.

"It used to be that Sheryl would walk in the door with a box, or her Mom or Dad would. Now, we get a huge box from her secretary in Los Angeles," Byrd said. She said Crow sends clothes about three times a year.

While some of Crow's clothes sell for just a few dollars apiece, Byrd and Kennett resident Jill Mobley have launched a new Web site to auction and sell Crow's best designer and keepsake items online.

Crow has also sponsored several student scholarships at the Kennett Area Higher Education Center since the spring of 2001. The scholarships pay the fees for one undergraduate or graduate class at the center, a relatively new partnership between Southeast Missouri State University and Three Rivers Community College aimed at helping area residents to earn degrees.

"Fifty scholarships have been awarded in her name so far," said center director Marsha Blanchard. "For some students, it makes all the difference. We have a lot of non-traditional students, who have families and jobs. Some, I've heard say, they wait to register to see if they get the scholarship or not."

Crow said she thinks many high-profile people give back. But even Missouri's governor singled out Crow's efforts.

"She not only says she supports her community, she lives up to it by her investment and her commitment to it," Gov. Bob Holden said. "She has not forgotten from where she came, and who helped her get where she is."

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