These are people whose outreach into the community is a strong one, yet they are wise enough to understand no hometown endeavor can succeed without the unconditional support of the very community that it serves.
As we savor heartfelt memories from our bygone Christmas season, and as we welcome the opening day of a new year, we point to an endearing lesson provided by three leaders whose goodwill in helping others is made possible through others’ help. Their message to us all is understanding the power of a “thank you.”
One Good Samaritan on our radar is Cleveland businesswoman Brenda Lawson who chairs the Creating Christmas Memories Foundation. This extraordinary outreach provided toys and clothing for more than 1,300 Cleveland and Bradley County children.
Yet, it wasn’t an act orchestrated solely by the successful entrepreneur whose business prowess is often trumped by her selfless acts of philanthropy.
Coordinating the good work of the 17th annual Creating Christmas Memories on behalf of area youngsters in need required the cooperation of the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems and their teachers, administrators, staff and school resource officers; the partnerships of the Cleveland Police Department and Bradley County Sheriff’s Office; Kmart; and a fleet of volunteers who asked to be involved.
It was another outpouring of hearts by many at a time of year when children are uppermost in our minds. Brenda Lawson is the first to recognize their hard work, their dedication and an uncanny sense of camaraderie.
In a display ad published in our newspaper on Dec. 23, and in a followup “Letter to the Editor” on Dec. 30, she spoke of the teamwork.
“This project takes months and months of work, hundreds of people and hundreds of man-hours to make it all come together each year,” the civic-minded Lawson wrote. “There is no way I could possibly say ‘thank you’ in person to all the people who worked to make the event possible.”
She added, “For this reason, I choose to write this ‘Open Letter’ in the Cleveland Daily Banner in hopes it reaches the people who volunteered their time and talents to make this day a success. I am truly thankful for each of you.”
Such a feeling of “thank you” is also witnessed in a local radio station owner. The 64th annual Cleveland Christmas Party for Children provided toys, food and clothing to more than 600 area youngsters. Much of the work was coordinated through the Mix 104.1 WCLE Empty Stocking Fund, but its success is credited by station owner Steve Hartline to a village of volunteers, including Lee University (specifically Dr. Paul Conn and Dr. Walt Mauldin) which provided the spacious Paul Dana Walker Arena for the Saturday morning distribution, as well as the congregation at Faith Memorial Church and Pastor David Riggs.
“We were able to give all new toys to these children because of the generosity of this community,” Hartline wrote in a “Letter to the Editor.” He also pointed to the value of 50 volunteers who helped set up the arena on Friday and another 70 who worked Saturday. Too, he credited the Cleveland Daily Banner for its ongoing support of the radio station drive.
Another who remembers the power of “thank you” is Kelli Kyle, director of Community Involvement for The Refuge who credited the collective strength of various businesses, churches and individuals for making the third annual Refuge Community Christmas another major success. This year, the campaign empowered more than 200 East Cleveland families and helped to provide toys to 460 children.
As Kyle pointed out, “We could never do this alone. This is a community project that is made possible by the community.”
Brenda Lawson, Steve Hartline and Kelli Kyle again have led outstanding Christmas projects for our hometown. Each is to be congratulated, and most importantly, commended for remembering the true miracle workers — hundreds of community volunteers.
Of course, other Christmas season drives, and their leaders and local teams, do the same. It is not our intent to exclude any. We highlight this trio because they are representative of the year-end good that is woven into the fabric of our hometown. Their collective “thank you” is genuine and each serves as a proper steppingstone into Day 1 of our new year.
As we greet the potential of 2013, let none ever forget the two most powerful words among humanitarian causes, “Thank you.”