Columns for The Lufkin News

The True Power of Community

Posted Sep 09, 2018 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

I have been reminded lately how wonderful our community of Lufkin is! I use the word community intentionally, for Lufkin is more than a city and more than just voting districts or neighborhoods or individual churches, organizations, or professions. All of these terms tend to identify us in division - as in separateness, not conflict - as opposed to unity.

Not that these markers of identity (such as Rotarian, Church of God in Christ, nurse, Episcopalian, etc.) don’t carry significance or meaning. But community implies (indeed, demands) unity. In fact, the word unity is part of root meaning of community. And unity is our source of strength. When we all – individuals, organizations – have common goals, we can accomplish much.

Sometimes our community rallies around a common athletic team such as the Lufkin Panthers or – the last two years – our Little League players. When a sports team is made up of upstanding individual players, such as the Thundering 13 or the Fierce 14, their victories became our victories. Our pride is not only in their outstanding team play and championships, but in their character, which we not so secretly claimed was a reflection of our city’s character. After all, they are “our” kids.

At other times, our community comes together for important work caring for our own. Two shining examples are the annual Thanksgiving Community Food Drive and The Junior League of Lufkin’s Back to School Bonanza (B2SB). Both events are often seen as “one day” events and get great press when they happen. But the events themselves are the tip of their respective icebergs when it comes to the organization and fundraising that precede them. The real testament to community for each of these events, however, is the number of people involved and purpose of each event.

The Thanksgiving Community Food Drive was started by the late Reverend Bettie Kennedy more than 25 years ago, who hand-delivered Thanksgiving meal boxes to needy families in North Lufkin. Bruce Love joined the work in 1999. That year, they delivered 50 boxes. Over the years, as eyes were opened to the even larger need in the community, the volunteer base and money raised grew and grew. Last year, $27,500 was raised - all for food - and 500 volunteers met at Brookshire Brothers’ White’s warehouse to pack and deliver 2,000 boxes of food for families in need. This is a true community event.

The Back to School Bonanza is another great program with broad community support. The junior League of Lufkin headed that effort, providing $60,000 - on top of $20,000 raised in the community - and leadership to over 60 organizations, churches, businesses, and foundations along with more than 500 community volunteers to provide a staggering amount of help for needy school kids to get the school year started off right. This wasn’t just a backpack drive, either! Yes, nearly 2,200 backpacks filled with grade-specific school supplies were handed out (with most of the supplies purchased from Brookshire Brothers). In addition, 1,100 breakfast sandwiches, 1,000 granola bars, and 1,000 bottles of water were handed out, 3,000 health kits were donated, 958 head checks were performed (and 88 lice kits given out). Over 4,200 uniform pieces were collected along with 2,300 pairs of shoes and 2,500 pairs of socks and $5,000 worth of underwear! One hundred forty haircuts were given. Even 1,500 children’s books were given out. Sixteen vendor booths were set up as well. The first person was in line at 1:20 AM!

Want more examples? Impact Lufkin just purchased the old Lufkin Country Club 170-acre tract of land to be used as a “site where the community will sow the seeds of opportunity,” according to Dr. Patricia McKenzie, Vice President of Impact Lufkin’s Board of Directors. “We have been blessed with a unique venue to carry out our mission as a community-driven organization that connects resources with responsible partners, agencies and programs to serve as a catalyst for sustainable community empowerment, revitalization and enrichment.”

Angelina College has also had significant announcements lately, including the launch of the Early College High School program with Lufkin ISD and with support from the TLL Temple Foundation. LISD Superintendent Lynn Torres noted to the Lufkin News that “this partnership allows students to not only take enough classes for an associate degree, but to also have the additional support from college instructors, teachers and counselors.” In addition, Angelina College – also with the help of the TLL Temple Foundation – is expanding staff capacity of the Small Business Development Center to focus on North Lufkin. These efforts are a demonstration of the power of partnership and collaboration – in a word, community.

A healthy community like ours is evidenced by a unifying spirit of cooperation, trust, and respect across party, racial, and religious affiliations. The danger, though, in any living, breathing community is that division in the body can kill. Much like cancer, seeds of complaint and discontent do not benefit the body; they can grow, take over, and destroy it. We can have differences of opinion about how to support our community and provide assistance to our fellow citizens. But we must voice those opinions in constructive ways while seeking the common good.

Our community is not perfect; no community is. But we are pretty darn close! Lufkin is known for being a giving community. That reputation is well-deserved, but we cannot rest on reputation. We each have different gifts and different roles to play. But none of us are unnecessary; we each need to do our part. Only when we all contribute can we truly support our educational institutions, improve community health, combat poverty, and sustain the many wonderful quality of life organizations and events in our area.

The work continues. What can you give? Time? Money? Expertise? Get plugged in, work together, and give! For WE – together, in unity – are the true power of community.

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Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

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