One of the unexpected joys of being mayor is helping our non-profit community remain viable. Shine Your Light was organized for that purpose. I jumped in with both feet in 2008 and look back in amazement at what we have accomplished since then.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I have loved being mayor of Tyler, Texas. I am five months from the end of my allowable terms and have started reflecting on what we have accomplished as a city during the last five and a half years. We have made great strides on our Tyler 1st strategic plan. We focused on jobs for the future of our community. We still have no general obligation debt; received a triple-A bond rating in a down economy and have had many other great achievements.
All of our accomplishments have been the result of a community working together. They are part of what I expected the mayor’s job to be. What I didn’t expect was how involved I would be in fundraising for our non-profits, but I quickly recognized that the health of our non-profit community is just as important as our economic health. Being a strong faith-based community means we take care of our own. It is our faith in action. In fact, I have found that helping each other is the common thread that connects people of all faiths and especially those of us living in the Tyler and East Texas area.
In 2008 when Nelson Clyde mentioned how hard our non-profit community had been hit with the economic downturn and outlined an idea he called Shine Your Light, I got really excited. He described a year-end charitable effort to refill the coffers of our frontline charities. We discussed how many of our non-profits end their year with depleted resources due to the extra push to help our neediest families during the Christmas holidays and can barely scrape together the funds during the cold winter months to continue serving those in need. As we discussed the concerns, I could see the impact we could make as a community by coming together for a year-end rally. By the end of lunch, I pledged matching funds from me and my husband to get Shine Your Light started. Since then, this has become our primary Christmas gift to each other.
Today, we can look back and see the impact we have had as a community. From over $100,000 in donations the first year to over $200,000 the last two years, we have shined our light on 16 different organizations and made a difference by helping families in need in our community.
For 2013, Shine Your Light is focusing on our children and youth. They are our future. We selected six non-profits to be our recipients this year. Three of the non-profits you will recognize from prior years, and three new non-profits were added. All were chosen specifically because of their programs for children and youth. From the backpack program at East Texas Food Bank to the programs for children and youth at Salvation Army, PATH, Literacy Council, Boys and Girls Club and First Tee, get ready to read the stories and catch the excitement of how we can help our children and youth overcome the hardships so many of them face today through the endeavors of this year’s organizations and their caring volunteers.
As you can tell, I am still excited about Shine Your Light. And, I want you to be excited, too. Rather than search for a gift for the friend who has everything they could possibly need, consider the perfect gift — one that will impact and change the lives of our children forever. A mentoring program, GED, nutritious meals on the weekend, or character-building program may be the defining factor that encourages and motivates a child in our community to realize his or her potential and break the cycle of despair life has dealt them.
Please join me as we collectively Shine Our Light and show God’s love by helping the neediest in our community — our children — and aim for a goal of $240,000. Together, we can make a difference.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!