… Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39, HCSB).
In a culture where people seem to be growing more and more dependent on outside aid, grants, handouts, and freebies, it is refreshing to discover places where folks are still committed to serving others; nobody’s saying, “Let the government take care of ’em!” or “Let ’em take care of themselves.” There is no better model than the biblical one: human needs being met by the community – local churches, businesses, civic groups, and caring neighbors.
Several days ago, I wrote about a recent week in Fredericksburg, Texas, where I found that the roots of Christian faith are historically deep and still evident. Then I received the e-newsletter from the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau, and I was astounded at the number of projects and events going on to serve others.
Local benefits for local needs
“The idea came up in June,” said market spokesman Amos Horst. “It’s great how all the local businesses are working together to honor them.” The event recognized first responders and their families, some 800 in all.
The Amish Market is a family-owned retailer on Fredericksburg’s thriving Main Street. It’s worth visiting just to admire their high-end, handcrafted furniture, purchase a stunning Amish quilt, and enjoy their other crafts. And then there’s the variety of specialty food items – cheese, butter, jam, jellies, noodles, and popcorn. This was certainly one of my favorite stops on Main.
“We have a couple of bicycle police officers who come in the store often, just to visit and let us know they’re on the job,” Horst said. “And now we get to show our appreciation for them.” And where else would the event be held? At a local church of course – Bethany Lutheran.
Another initiative this fall was the 13th Annual Fredericksburg Boys & Girls Club Shopping Tournament, a creative activity to generate local funds for the clubs.
“It saved my life.” That’s the common analysis of more than half of the B&GC alumni who participated in research by Louis Harris & Associates. Eighty percent said the clubs helped them learn right from wrong. Incidentally, club alums comprise a long list of well-known personalities including Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Brad Pitt, and Denzel Washington.
Fredericksburg leaders know a good thing when they see one, and local leaders were quick to get involved when B&GC came to town. The annual shopping tournament was first conceived by Ross Hinton, a former B&GC board member. California native Mary Lou White, who has made Fredericksburg home for years, also once served on the B&GC board and still helps coordinate the tournament.
“Fredericksburg is a wonderful, giving community,” White said, “with lots of things like this.” The B&GC fundraiser draws its creative terminology and components from golf and features teams of up to four shoppers. Tee time (serious shopping) begins early, and a 19th hole party is hosted at the Nimitz ballroom. (More about Admiral Nimitz below.)
Each shopper pays a $60 donation fee up front, then shops participating main street merchants, which also pay a fee to be a part of the fundraiser. Shoppers accumulate points via the dollars they spend, their “team spirit,” costumes (Use your imagination!), and the amount of donations they generate. High point totals earn shoppers prizes for their efforts. You can’t say Fredericksburg folks don’t get creative in their zeal to serve others.
“There’s another group I’m a part of,” White added, “the Giving Circle.” This circle was the brainchild of Cameron-Brooks agency employees years ago while White worked there. The Cameron-Brooks mission is to help junior military officers transition back to the private sector by building bridges between them and the corporate world. It’s not surprising to find the agency in this city where veterans clearly command great respect among the populace.
“The Giving Circle is just an informal group that first decided to serve some needy individual(s) or a family one Christmas several years ago,” White said. Before long, they had expanded beyond the Cameron-Brooks offices, were meeting monthly, and finding neighbors whose lives they could bless throughout the year.
Still another community-based charity event held this month was KNAF Radio’s 28th annual radiothon to benefit New Horizons, a training and employment center for adults with developmental disabilities.
“Moving here from a large city, well, it’s a lot different,” KNAF staffer Angela Compton said. “People care about others here.”
For six hours this past Saturday, KNAF opened its doors to local music artists who volunteered their time and sang live on the air. New Horizons volunteers came in to receive pledges by telephone. Community members stopped by to enjoy the music and donate to New Horizons.
Compton said it was like a six-hour, live radio concert. Lots of spirit. Lots of giving. Lots of fun.
Looking backward to find new heroes
I’ll mention just one more event: the September 16 screening of the film We Served Too and a September 17 symposium of the same title. Filmmaker Jill Bond released the one-hour film in 2013 to honor the almost unknown and unheralded Women’s Air Force Service Pilots who served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II.
Bond was drawn to the subject by her mother, whose brother died at Bunker Hill in WWII. Fortunately, Bond was able to track down 15 women who served in the WASPs. Some of their touching interviews are on the film.
“I am just as gung ho today as I was my first day of boot camp,” said WASP Pat Murray. “I can’t get enough of the [U.S.] flag. I love our flag.”
Deanie Parrish welcomed the recognition WASPs are finally receiving. “At last, before we’re all gone, I think America is being educated,” she said.
While this event is not focused on local charities and local needs, it is a perfect complement to everything Fredericksburg. The screening is sponsored by the city’s Admiral Nimitz Foundation and the Fredericksburg Theater Company, which also host the Saturday symposium. Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the WWII Pacific Theater, grew up in Fredericksburg, which is home to the National Museum of the Pacific Theater of World War II. The museum has an astonishing collection of WWII items, all the more noteworthy for its location in this small city. (Watch for a feature story in the November AFA Journal.)
Now, I know small towns and cities all over the U.S. do these sorts of things – fundraisers for good causes, celebrations for local or national heroes, projects to help others. But when I received Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau’s e-newsletter, I was blown away by the number of things on the city calendar within just a few days’ time. This small city in Texas Hill Country sets the bar high in their example of caring for their neighbors.
KNAF’s Compton summed it up perfectly: “It’s inspiring to see a community where people still take care of each other.”