Ideas include adding street festival, improving lighting, communication

SHIRLEY — A group of two dozen townspeople gathered in Shirley Monday to think of ways to improve the community.

Gone is Shirley’s heyday when plentiful free natural gas helped power industries like the town’s glass factory and helped give a major railroad reason to keep Shirley as one of its stops.

But the gas eventually ran out and industries and many businesses went by the wayside as well.

Shirley’s downtown strip is now filled with empty buildings. The community on the Hancock/Henry County line has no state highway running through it, and its decreasing population has been marked as low- to-moderate income.

But there is hope. Since Shirley was the birthplace of GasAmerica nearly 100 years ago, fourth-generation owners Stephanie White Longworth and Keith White want to give back to the community now that they have sold the company to Speedway.

The White Family Foundation has earmarked roughly $200,000 for grants to help improve the town.

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