Athens Review, Athens, Texas

September 27, 2013

Enough about me — these folks really matter

Jayson Larson
The Athens Review

Athens — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — I’m leaving the Athens Review.

No, they’re not firing me and I haven’t joined the circus (I never got a call back). I’ve accepted the public information officer’s position at Trinity Valley Community College, an adventure that begins next week.

While I’ve had other jobs (I once spent a summer using oranges to play “Paper Towel Bowling” at a grocery store in Seven Points), the Review was the first position that required me to use my heart. And when the heart gets involved, at least in my case, the roots of my existence dig in deep. Roots are comfortable when left in place but painful when extracted.

As my roots are pulled up from this place, I’m so excited to plant them in fertile, rich soil at TVCC. The role of education in my life can’t be understated, and as a lifelong learner I will be proud to fly the flag for a great — and local — institute of higher education. I’m leaving one group of great people for another.

But here’s the deal. I’ve written the “leaving the paper” column several times before as I trotted around Texas looking for the community in which I wanted to raise my family. Five times I left the paper looking for that place, and five times I returned — the last time realizing there was a reason I kept tucking tail and running back to Athens. This is home, and I love my community. These are my people.

My people are on my mind this morning as I once again sign off to the readers of this newspaper. I honestly have no desire to spend the next few minutes of your time asking you to read more about me. Before I go, I have to know that I tried at least once more to promote a few of the groups in this area that are close to my heart.

The first is Hope Springs Water, based right here in Athens, Texas. This awesome organization was started because local folks were brokenhearted by a devastating statistic — 1.2 billion people in the world have no access to pure drinking water. Having walked the red dirt roads of Malawi, in Africa, I’ve seen the fallout of that lack of water first-hand. People are dying, and a growing group of folks from right here in our own backyard are putting up a heck of a fight to save lives.

There’s so much more to tell, but since I need to be brief, know that your support would be greatly appreciated. You can find out more by visiting hopespringswater.org or calling 903-292-1781.

While the Hope Springs folks are reaching around the globe, Henderson County Labor of Love stays plenty busy here at home. Labor of Love, which has been around here since 1986, provides home repairs at no charge to homeowners who can no longer maintain their homes due to age, disability or other circumstances beyond their control (yeah, I lifted that right off their website). This ministry reaches so much further than you might think, and while I haven’t talked to any folks at LoL lately, I suspect they deal with what most aid organizations deal with — infinite need and finite resources.

To find out how to donate manpower or funds to this resource, call the Athens Samaritans at 903-675-LOVE.

While this county has several food pantries, a couple immediately come to my mind. In Athens, we have the Henderson County Food Pantry that’s located at 715 East Corsicana Street (903-677-1600) and in Malakoff, there’s the Faith In Action Outreach (103 South Terry Street, faithinactionoutreach.com).

My church is involved with FIAO, so my experience is limited to this organization, which offers not only food, but spiritual counseling, a clothes closet and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Here’s what I can tell you about both — they need your help. Funds are always tight. While these organizations are glad to get any kind of help they can, they need money. Let me repeat that — they need money. Canned goods are great, but $1 donated to a food pantry can stretch so much further than your $1 at the grocery store. The East Texas Food Bank in Tyler often sells produce for a penny per pound, if that gives you any idea.

As a Christian husband and father, my concern is about leaving a legacy for my family. That’s my job. These organizations are leaving a legacy of care and compassion for an entire community. That, to be sure, is our job.