Nearly 300 people were squeezed into the H. W. Pearce Memorial Park Assembly House on Saturday night for the 11th annual fund-raising dinner and auction to benefit the Regional Child Advocacy Center. For those who may be geographically challenged, Jackson and its 5,200 citizens are at the southern tip of Clarke County not many miles above where the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers merge to head toward Mobile Bay.
The advocacy center, headed by Mary English and her small staff, provide services for children in Clarke, Choctaw and Washington counties. They also operate a foster home in Grove Hill.
And each year at this event they honor someone with the Eddie Slayton Memorial Award. This year the honoree was my great friend Jane Sellers who has headed the Clarke County HIPPY (Home Instruction for the Parents of Pre-School Youngsters) effort for 10 years. If I know anyone with a heart for children, it is Jane. Her program has worked with 750 families and their four and five-year olds during her tenure.
And because I can’t say “no” to Jane, when she said to be there on Feb. 18, I knew me and my old car with 221,000 miles on it were about to hit the road again.
I didn’t know many people in the room. But I knew Jane and husband Gary. Judy Graham, who worked for Alabama Power in Clarke County a decade ago and was the force behind getting HIPPY up and going, drove up from Daphne. And two of my favorite elementary principals in the whole wide world, Shannon Odom and Kathy Spidle, were there. Shannon is at Gilmore Elementary in Jackson while Kathy holds down the fort at Grove Hill Elementary in Grove Hill. They are great and dedicated educators and always fun to be around.
But mostly, this evening in a small south Alabama town was about community-minded people who believe in helping their neighbors. They were a very tiny sampling of the fabric that makes this country what it is. They turned out because they believe in the cause and heed the call “As you do unto the least of these.”
Anyone who reads much of what I write know I get agitated a lot. So I write about the president appointing someone as Secretary of Education who has few qualifications for the job. I write about a state school superintendent with no education credentials and about legislators who seem more intent on harming public schools than helping them.
But from time to time I put aside my agitation and spend time among real people who are motivated, not for political purposes, but simply because their heart says it is the right thing to do.
So I drove 320 miles and got home near midnight. But I saw something too many fail to see, or at least acknowledge, very often.
Our new president says he wants to :”make America great again.” Had he been in Jackson, AL Saturday night he would have seen that we already are.