Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Poverty, a former East Texas cleric used to say, is like a big sister: Always trying to tell you what to do, but when you're in need, she's right there for you, taking care of you.
“As a whole, we East Texans back each other up, and help each other out at times when it's most needed, and I'm very happy, very proud to say I work in Jacksonville amongst this community,” said Daniel Minton, the Bonner Street Plaza marketing director whose kernel of an idea to provide fans to people in need was quickly fanned, netting a combination of funds and fans to help 186 people.
While Cherokee County is ranked among the poorest Texas, “we are just blessed” by the generosity of the people here, he said. “I was surprised (by the drive of the success) but in a way, I wasn't, because I know how the folks here are – they will rally around a good cause.”
Added Allison Hale, executive director of H.O.P.E., who is helping identify fan recipients, “I was very impressed (with the outcome, but), I was not really surprised: The people of Cherokee County, when they hear of a need, they go above and beyond. I was pleased to see how quickly they were able to (donate) that many fans.”
The idea for the fan drive came about earlier this summer when Minton, who also volunteers with Meals on Wheels, noticed clients on his route trying to keep cool without air conditioning in their homes.
He contacted H.O.P.E. and A.C.C.E.S.S. to see if they knew of any such projects, but didn't discovered any. So, with the enthusiastic support of his fellow coworkers at a Jacksonville senior residential center, Bonner Street Plaza offered to be a drop-off site for funds and fans.
The goal was to collect as many fans as possibly by a self-imposed deadline of August 15, and by the beginning of the month, more than a dozen fans were collected.
Then Billy Bateman – a local community activist who has thrown his support behind the military community, the local crisis center and relief efforts benefitting the victims of the Moore, Okla., natural disaster this past spring – caught wind of the project, and ran full speed ahead, challenging residents and members of the business community to donate at least one fan during an August 10-11 drive held at a local business. The day before the kick-off, he said, 56 fans had been donated; by the time the weekend was over, more than double that amount had been dropped off, with approximately $1,000 collected for purchase of fans.
And the generosity didn't stop there, Minton said. “WalMart was great – when they ran out of the cheaper fans, they gave us (other fans) at that cheaper rate, and they gave us a $75 donation,” he said. “It was really awesome.”
Fans are already being distributed through H.O.P.E, to whom clients go to for a voucher that will be exchanged for a new fan at the senior resident facility, but “if somebody came to us and said they had an extra $20 they wanted to donate to make a difference in someone's life, we'd definitely be happy to help,” Minton said.