Mixed messages from the East End

April 03, 2016 from the Local newspaper The Gleaner

By Beth Smith of The Gleaner

Whether lifelong residents or more recent inhabitants, East Enders agree there is plenty to be proud of in their part of Henderson.

The East End boasts one of the best schools in the state — South Heights Elementary. There are iconic businesses, including Metzger’s Tavern, Days Garden Center, T&T Drug Store and Thomason’s Barbecue, to name a few.

There are well-established churches, and among many, especially the older residents, a deep sense of loyalty to the area where they’ve put down roots.

“The East End, historically, is doing very well coexisting as a community and thriving with businesses,” said Dixie Gettings, a native of the East End. “That’s one reason I want to stay here. I have relationships with Tom’s Market and T&T Drug Store. We are clannish, and we kind of keep to ourselves. It’s a good place to be. We have a lot of churches. There’s a lot of positives. We have the bus line. We are within walking distance of a lot of things.”

“South Heights Elementary School is a jewel, not only for me, but for my son,” Gettings said. “He’s rented property and purchased property (in the East End) primarily because he wanted his boys to go to South Heights. They are one of the highest scoring schools in the state. We have one grandchild who has special needs, and they were wonderful for him. For parents, you can’t beat that school.”

However, according to some residents, there is also a darker side to the East End.

Growing gang activity, illegal drug trade, an increasingly transient populace and disinterested landlords are polluting the East End with fear, according to some.

Several East End residents spoke to The Gleaner but refused to do so on the record out of fear.

They told stories of vandalized cars, shootings and other violence.

Gettings said that while she feels safe living in the East End and loves the community, she admits there are problems.

“I was born and raised in the East End. (After getting married) we could’ve chosen to live elsewhere, but we’ve chosen to live here and have been here 40 years,” she said.

“I’m not saying (the issues) shouldn’t be addressed, but I feel safe where I live,” Gettings said. “I just want people to have a feel for how things are. East End is a strange subculture, and it’s in transition. When we moved in, it was very blue collar and everyone owned their own homes. Now there’s a lot of rental property.”

One East End resident said she doesn’t like to let her children play outside.

“It wasn’t like that when we moved in,” she said. “We moved into the East End seven years ago, and we had the best neighbors. A lot of the property has changed from homeownership to rental property, and I think when there are transient groups, it’s hard to make connections.”

“Burglaries are common on our street,” she said. “We don’t want people to not want to move here, but if you can’t let your kids play outside, then why would you come?”

Michael Walker, an East End resident and an owner of rental property there, said some of the responsibility for the issues in the East End can be laid at the feet of landlords.

“Every time I put more and more money into (my) houses, then slumlords move in,” he said.

“Landlords need to be held responsible. There are landlords who know their tenants sell drugs, but they won’t kick them out. (Some) landlords don’t care, and they don’t keep up the properties like they should,” he said. “Landlords need to be held accountable for what’s going on in their houses … I’m going to approach the Henderson City Commission about (passing) the good neighbor ordinance which holds landlords responsible for what goes on on their property. Evansville and Chandler, Indiana, have it.”

“I think homeownership would change the atmosphere of the East End,” he said. “Because if people invest in property, they are likely to keep it up.”

The occupants have a responsibility for maintaining the property, Walker said, adding that lack of finances isn’t an excuse for homes looking unkempt.

“Being poor has nothing to do with having trash everywhere,” he said. “Because it costs nothing to walk outside and pick up paper and trash.”

Other East End residents who spoke to The Gleaner agreed that landlords should be required to clean and maintain their properties.

“There’s a lot of abandoned houses,” one resident said. “And if you have abandoned buildings, kids are going to congregate there. If the landlord isn’t going to fix it up, then he/she should knock it down. But to have a lot of empty structures, the kids go there. It starts small and becomes an epidemic.”

“It concerns me that some landlords don’t do what they are supposed to do,” Gettings said. “Each landlord isn’t held to the same accountability. My children have gotten tickets for not mowing their grass or for flat tires (on a vehicle), but some landlords don’t have to do anything about their abandoned buildings.”

Both Gettings and Walker, as well as other residents, said there needs to be a greater police presence in the neighborhood.

“The city needs to put more police manpower in the East End,” Walker said.

Gettings said she has filled out citizen watch cards and put them in the police tip boxes at T&T Drug Store, but no one has responded.

“I believe in authority, and I’m not pleased with responses from police. There are those citizen watch cards, and I’ve filled out 10 of those. I even took some to the police department. I feel they don’t have adequate follow-through. I’m not blaming the police for the problem, but the follow-through,” she said.

“I’m not totally blaming the police or the landlords” for the issues in the East End, Gettings said. “There is a perfect storm of events.”

Henderson Police Chief Chip Stauffer said he understands some residents’ desire to see a larger police force and more police presence.

“Their concerns are legitimate, and I understand that they’d like to see a larger presence,” he said. “We are in the process of working on a program where bike officers will be patrolling in the area. But with a limited number of officers, it’s difficult to not only respond to calls, but to have a presence. The schools are also asking for a police presence. With limited staffing, it’s hard to be everywhere people say we need to be. We are working on addressing this, but I have to make decisions on managing the resources that we have.”

As for the citizen watch cards, Stauffer said, “The program was started several years ago. I wasn’t aware there was a tip box at T&T, but now that I know, we will make an effort to pick them up.”

In December 2014, a teen was beaten in the East End by someone wielding a baseball bat. According to police, the victim of that assault was walking with a friend who identifies with one of the groups at odds with each other.

One resident said the assault took place near her home.

“I think my biggest thing is how close those in warring groups — I don’t want to say gangs — live to my home,” she said.

“It boils down to, if everybody keeps the same mind set, nothing is ever going to change,” Walker said.

“This whole deal is based on everybody. Everybody has to pull together. It can start with being that good neighbor, beef up the police, and the codes department needs to do their job. Things have to change or it’s not going to be just in the East End. It’s going to bleed out.”

Gunfire calls in Henderson nearly tripled in three years

By  of The GleanerGunfire calls in Henderson nearly tripled in three years

Beth Smith / The Gleaner This map locates every 'shots fired' call received by Henderson police in the East End from February 2013 through February 2016. Orange points represent incidents from February 2013 through February 2014. Red points represent incidents from February 2014 through February 2015. Blue points represent incidents from February 2015 through February 2016.

Beth Smith / The Gleaner This map locates every ‘shots fired’ call received by Henderson police in the East End from February 2013 through February 2016. Orange points represent incidents from February 2013 through February 2014. Red points represent incidents from February 2014 through February 2015. Blue points represent incidents from February 2015 through February 2016.
Posted: March 20, 2016

By Beth Smith of The Gleaner

On Feb. 7, Henderson police responded to Methodist Hospital where a 19-year-old man was being treated for an injury caused when a bullet grazed his shoulder.

According to authorities, the shooting occurred in an alley in the part of the city known as the East End. The victim told police he didn’t know who shot him, but that it could have something to do with an “ongoing feud” between him and other individuals. No arrests were made.

On Feb. 22, city police were dispatched to the area of Lawndale Court, also considered part of the East End, after 911 calls began rolling in regarding gunfire. During the investigation, it was discovered that two vehicles had been damaged by bullets, and authorities said they found five 9-mm casings. Witnesses said two black males were seen, and one of them fired a handgun toward Fagan Street. No injuries were reported.

On Feb. 24, officers arrested Samuel Green, 18, 1400 block of Powell Street, while investigating an incident of shots fired on Lakeview Drive. HPD’s K-9 unit found a revolver in a crawl space nearby and a shell matching the revolver was found in Green’s pocket, city police said.

The number of calls involving gunfire within the city has almost tripled since 2013, according to Henderson Police Chief Chip Stauffer, and during the last year has moved from sporadic locations throughout Henderson to primarily the East End.

Geographically, the boundaries of the East End include Meadow Street to Atkinson Street and Washington Street to Sand Lane or Madison Street, he said.

“When we see a trend like this, we look to see if there’s a commonality of where the incidents are occurring,” Stauffer said. “We try to isolate the area of town and gather information or intelligence — especially if we see an increase like we have — of who might be involved.”

“The number of ‘shots fired’ calls is not exact,” he said. “But after looking for 911 calls just within the city coded as ‘shots fired’ or suspicious circumstances in which the term ‘shots’ was in the text, we were able to determine that between February of 2013 and February 2014, there were 27 of those calls. From February 2014 to February 2015, there were 52 calls and from February 2015 to February 2016, we’ve had 69 of those calls.”

Stauffer said the police department is not only aware of the violent movement, but is digging into the cause — despite resistance from the victims themselves and some community members who are reluctant to get involved.

Although information has come in slowly, Stauffer said police have discovered the display of firepower is a form of “intimidation” between two groups in the East End feuding over issues related to the illegal drug trade in the city.

“When these incidents happen, there’s not a lot of information that people will provide. We know of one instance, which wasn’t reported to us, where a person was struck by a bullet and received a nonlife-threatening injury. The victim didn’t report it,” Stauffer said. “We’ve had two other incidents which were reported to us where people have sought medical attention, but victims didn’t want to cooperate with the investigation.”

“What we’re finding, with the information we have, is that most of the time, these ‘shots fired’ calls are associated with some type of intimidation, like ‘I’ll show you’ type of thing,” he said.

“I hate to use the word ‘gang,’ but young people are identifying with other young people from the same geographic area … We deal with two different groups and somewhere along the line the groups have clashed or had an issue and a lot of the issues develop over illegal drugs … someone they knew bought drugs and got shorted, or they bought drugs that were bad … Before long, one group starts talking about the other group and then they pull out guns just to show they aren’t scared.”

“Historically in Henderson, when we have a lot of ‘shots fired’ calls, this is what we find to be the cause,” Stauffer said.

“Several years ago we had two opposing groups, not from Henderson, who came into Henderson. We had an increase in ‘shots fired’ calls. It had to do with illegal drug trade. The groups were each trying to take over (distribution) and there was a rub with local groups who are involved in trafficking illegal drugs.”

Stauffer said the majority of guns circulated among these groups have been stolen.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people who own firearms leave them in unlocked vehicles, and they get stolen,” he said. However, “We’ve seen an increase of thefts of guns in general” whether from vehicles or residences.”

“Now we’re seeing the (stolen) guns in the hands of teens and young adults ranging from ages 14 to 19,” Stauffer said.

“Typically, guns become a commodity,” he said. “My belief is it’s pushed from the addictive culture that we have, the addiction to legal substances and illegal substances. The addict needs his/her vice and a gun becomes a potential commodity to get what he/she needs. So when illegal drug trafficking is occurring and you don’t have money, but you have a gun, you can get your drugs for the gun. All of a sudden, you have these folks dealing drugs who are getting guns, because it’s a form of payment. I think some people are stealing guns, but I also think they are being used as a system of bartering to get what they want.”

The number of “shots fired” incidents has quieted down recently, which Stauffer attributes to the arrest of Green and a 15-year-old. But, Stauffer said, the fear is that the feud between the groups will ignite again and innocent people will be hurt.

“Samuel Green is in one of the groups and the 15-year-old is in the other group,” he said. “They were allegedly firing off rounds in the block where the other group is living. Bullets were being fired into the air or into the ground,” which generated several of the 911 calls.

“However, the fear is that it is going to escalate. If someone gets shot, the belief could be ‘If they shot one of mine, I’m going to shoot one of theirs,’ and it gets more violent and you have more victims, potentially innocent victims.”

Without the community’s cooperation, Stauffer said, law enforcement is greatly limited in its ability to investigate crimes and ultimately protect the residents in the affected areas.

“Most recently, we’ve been told ‘You’re the police. That’s your job.’ I won’t argue it’s not our job,” Stauffer said. “What I would argue is that individuals who reside in these areas of town, this is where they live all the time. It’s important for us to provide safety and reassurance that we’re going to be there when they need us, but at the same time, we need open communication to help us investigate these crimes. The big fear is that an innocent individual gets hurt. Then everything changes.”

“What if it was your family member who got hurt? Would you want community members who had information to step forward? Generally, people will eventually give us enough information that we can start building a case. The unfortunate thing is usually they know that information immediately, but it takes weeks for us to develop it, as opposed to minutes or hours. When we have the information the investigation speeds up and we can make an arrest,” he said.

“Right now is, there’s not any cooperation,” Stauffer said.

For example, last June when Henderson resident Isaiah Ruby, then 19, was shot in the head during a dice game at the John F. Kennedy Center basketball courts, no one called 911, despite a large crowd being present, Henderson Police Detective Eric Ramsey said during court testimony on the matter.

Ruby, who survived the shooting, was taken to the hospital in a private vehicle, officials said. Medical personnel notified police they were treating someone with a gun shot wound.

Police said out of the large group at the ball courts that night, only two witnesses stepped forward. They helped investigators identify the shooter as Devin Johnson, also of Henderson.

Johnson was arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree assault under extreme emotional disturbance. He was sentenced to five years, but served only 42 days before being granted shock probation. Prosecutors told The Gleaner, that the decision to agree to shock probation stemmed primarily from the lack of cooperation by the victim and witnesses.

Stauffer said the violence won’t stop without a community/police partnership.

The police department is working with city officials and organizations to develop a program similar to one called Safe Communities.

“Safe Communities,” said City Commissioner Robby Mills, “is an effort to raise awareness and do more community policing and get neighbors to talk. We really need communication. Because until people start talking and get tired of seeing drug dealing on their streets, then the police can only do so much.”

Stauffer said the program is very much in its infancy.

However, he said, the community can still help stymie the flow of crime.

“Be our eyes and ears,” he said. “Be willing to talk to us. You can call the police department, use social media and leave a message through Henderson County Crime Stoppers.

“The community sees things that we don’t,” Stauffer said. “They are present when we are not. That one little piece of information that they think isn’t a big deal, could be the one thing that ties an investigation all together — whether it’s as simple as ‘I heard the sounds, looked out and saw a red car.’”

“At that point, we may know who the players are but we don’t have a vehicle. Suddenly a red car gives us a possible vehicle and it could be tied to other things going on,” he said. “So share the information.”

“It’s hard because in today’s society no one wants to get involved. But we as a community and as a society have to step up and say, ‘We are going to get involved. We’re not going to let these people ruin our neighborhoods and scare our younger children. We’re going to take an active role. And we’re not going to be bullied, whether it’s a block, the East End, an apartment complex.’ The community is going to have to take a stand. When the community takes a stand, we as the police can focus on who we believe is causing the problem. Then everybody wins.”

Investing in the future of the East End with Audubon Kids’ Zone

Investing in the future of the East End with Audubon Kids’ Zone

From the local newspaper- The Gleaner
Posted: Aug. 28, 2015
 By Erin Schmitt

Every time South Heights Elementary students have been given the support they need, they have prospered, according to Principal Rob Carroll.

A former student, once intermittently homeless as a child, is now on the dean’s list at Murray State University. Another former student is getting her doctor of physical therapy at the University of Evansville.

These are two success stories, but Carroll and the community partners committed to improving the East End want to make it so all students are given the support they need to succeed as adults.

To fulfill that mission, several entities have joined together to build the Audubon Kids’ Zone. Located in the heart of the East End at the corner of Letcher and Powell streets, the facility will help provide support for kids from prenatal to career.

Carroll and his fellow community partners gave an update about the project during a Rotary Club of Henderson meeting on Thursday. An old bank was demolished in June to make way for the new building.

“I always wanted to be like in a movie and walk out in slow motion with the rest of the people that are going to change the world,” said Carroll of his fellow Kid Zone collaborators. “This is the first opportunity that I’ve really got to do that.”

The Raymond B. Preston Family Family Foundation donated a lead gift of $175,000 to start the project. Jennifer Preston told the Rotarians her late father-in-law came from humble beginnings and he was given support to succeed.

He wanted to give those opportunities back to the community. Investing in the Audubon Kid Zone is a wonderful way to do just that, Preston said.

The city of Henderson has committed close to $500,000 to improving the East End, said Assistant City Manager Buzzy Newman. This includes improving roads, gutters and installing sidewalks.

The city has also identified 15 dilapidated homes in the East End that the city commission has budgeted money to have razed. City officials have encouraged the police to develop a neighborhood watch program in the area and there are talks about assigning an assistant police chief to the East End.

“We all know the area out there is somewhat plagued with social issues that need to be addressed,” Newman said. “The only way to improve lives is to minimize the social impacts that these kids face every day.”

The city has a request for proposal out to build a splash pad in the East End park, at Helm and Letcher streets.

The water feature will cost an estimated $100,000 overall and will likely be ready in the winter or spring, said City Commissioner Robby Mills said.

“It is easily, I think, one of the best ideas going on in our community right now,” said city of Henderson Commissioner Robby Mills. “When you can think about how to bridge school and home and how we can reach out and majorly influence people’s home lives and their learning capabilities. That’s a major no-lose situation in my book.”

Hundreds turn out for Henderson’s City Serve Day

24 churches, 21 Community Partners, 4 cities, 29 projects, 1000+ volunteers…Click for A City Serve 2015 picture gallery

glcityserve_3605_18048073_ver1.0_900_6756126252353126400Picture by DANIEL R. PATMORE

Henderson resident Alex Ramirez could’ve chosen many activities to occupy his Saturday morning.

What the 9-year-old did was grab a shovel and help volunteers prepare the East End community gardens located at Washington and Holloway streets.

Ramirez told The Gleaner that he likes gardening because, “It gives poor people food to stay healthy.”

This project was just one of many taking place in the community on Saturday as part of Henderson’s annual City Serve Day.

Hundreds of volunteers, including several local churches and organizations, dispersed to locations such as Riverview School, South Heights and Jefferson elementary schools, Central Learning Center and various community parks to take on projects involving anything from landscaping to picking up trash.

Henderson’s City Serve Day was held in conjunction with another City Serve Day, which also took place Saturday in Evansville.

Melodie Schrader, who organized the City Serve project at the community gardens, said, “This is our third growing season.”

“The front beds are for the community. Today we’ll hoe them up and plant them,” she said. “Everybody in the community who wants to can pick (produce from the front beds) which is free to the community. The back beds are assigned to neighbors who live in the area. They plant the beds and maintain them. They can donate the food or use it to feed their families. I know one lady who lives around here, came and picked a fresh salad every day, which is really neat.”

“We have some wonderful volunteers,” Schrader said. “Alex, he’s one of our neighbors. He and his family have a box in the back. This is his third season with us. He had his own box the first season. When we started this, it was really the first green space that had been around for a while, and the kids came out in droves.”

Audra Pirtle, a master gardener and City Serve volunteer, also spent several hours of her day at the community gardens.

“Today we’re planting tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, some herbs and goji berries. I hope we can do more of this in our city,” she said.

“I think (a community garden) is good thing to be able to help our community, to teach people where our food comes from and afford everybody the opportunity to have fresh food on their table.”

Henderson resident Stacey Vaughn also pitched in at the gardens Saturday.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m picking weeds because I don’t have a green thumb.”

“I’d love to learn to plant flowers and keep them alive,” she said.

Vaughn said the project has brought back a lot of great childhood memories of gardening with her parents and grandparents.

“City Serve Day is important for the community to come together, work together and realize the importance of each other,” she said. “I feel like people don’t talk to their neighbors anymore or communicate with each other. I think it’s good to get everybody together.”

Ryan Nunn, team leader for City Serve Day, said, “We want to make our city better, by serving our city. Aesthetically, we’re going to some under-resourced schools such as South Heights and Jefferson and doing some landscaping. That helps give the students some ownership of their campus, and then we can be a presence and support for our local schools.”

The team being led by Nunn not only picked up trash in the East End, but also took note of graffiti and “potentially dangerous properties.” The information will be passed on to city workers so the graffiti can be cleaned up and decisions can be made regarding abandoned and dangerous structures.

“We have a lot of teams out. It’s not just churches, it’s organizations too, coming together to engage our city. It’s a movement and we’re just trying to be part of it,” Nunn said.

“The message is, whether we’re churches or organizations, we want people to see that we’re doing what we can do to build a great city … we’re taking our city seriously.”

“What makes a great city is doing everything we can do to guarantee our kids success … If we’re doing our part to make sure the next generation can succeed, that’s part of building a great city,” Nunn said. “I think cleanups and work days play a role in that because we’re showing the kids that this type of thing matters.”

 

College Tours-Giving kids a vision for their future

For the last 9 years, South Heights Elementary has been taking kids on college tours. This year the 5th graders went to University of Kentucky, the 3rd graders went to Murray State, the 2nd graders went to Kentucky Weslyan and the 1st Graders went to University of Evansville. One of the 1st grade students during the Q an A with the admissions staff asked “how to you get to college”. Of course the response was hard work and a passion to succeed all the way though school.

Principal Rob Carroll shared that when the 5th graders visited the UK campus, they ran into a former South Heights student who was now attending UK. He shared that he was on one of these South Heights tours almost 9 years ago and today he is a full time college student. The 1st graders also got to meet and spend some time with a South Heights graduate that attends UE.

Busloads of kids on 4 different university campuses with TShirts that say “I’m going to College”….The 1199 vision!

2015 City Serve

CityJoin churches and volunteers as they serve the city of Henderson in parks, neighborhoods and schools to make a difference.

 

When: Saturday, May 9th Time: 8a to noon

Where: Meet at 8a at the new location of Audubon Kids Zone in Henderson’s East End at the corner of Letcher and Powell

Projects include(but not limited to):

Parks group-Henderson-South Heights School-Heath Farmer

-Jefferson School-Jon Tabor

- Central Learning Center-Matt McCraw

-City Parks-Robby Mills and Ryan Nunn

Bennett Memorial-Henderson-Community One housing projects-Lori Reed, Matt McCraw, Ryan Nunn

-Street to street trash pick up-Ryan Nunn

-Community Garden preparation-Melody Schrader

-Bennett Memorial-Wayne Bennett

Bring a friend, bring your church, bring a trash bag, bring a broom/rake or bring a project, but most importantly

Party and celebration to follow with food and fun at Bennett Memorial parking lot at 503 Letcher Street at noon.

For more information call Ryan Nunn at 279.860.1064 or Matt McCraw at 270.748.1201

260,000 Leaders in 875 cities

2015WebBanners_350x250The Global Leadership Summit is in it’s 21st year and has become the premier annual leadership event to attend! On August 6th and 7th, you will be able to experience the Global Leadership in one of four tristate locations in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky:

Evansville East at Crossroads Christian Church 

Evansville West at One Life Church-West

Owensboro Kentucky at the Owensboro Convention Center (provided by C12 Tristate)

Henderson Kentucky at One Life Church Henderson

We are looking for partner churches in all four areas of the tristate. If you are interested you can contact Bob Seymore at bobseymore@onelifechurch.org to connect to the coordinator at the venue nearest your church. The basic requirements of a partner church are found by clicking here.

This years speakers include some familiar names like Bill Hybels, Jim Collins and Craig Groeschel with some new faces like Ed Catmull from Pixar, Horst Schulze from the Ritz Carlton Corporation and Brian Houston from Hillsong Australia.

Here’s the complete 2015 faculty…

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Why leverage the GLS as a resource for your church or organization?

Here is a survey based on participants and the impact of these two days:

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Cultivating Soft Skills in Workforce Development: K-12 Initiatives

Join this free webinar….

Session Description: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 9.6 million unemployed people in the United States in August 2014, while at the same time there were 4.8 million job openings. While a lot of attention is paid to the lack of technical skills that job candidates possess and the need to invest more in training for STEM jobs, it is also true that one of the biggest barriers faced by employers when hiring is the candidates’ lack of “soft skills” (e.g., being able to communicate effectively, think critically and be a reliable team player).

During this Exploring Innovation webinar series from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, we will hear from leaders in education, academia and business regarding what it means to have a workforce that possesses the soft skills demanded by employers. We will highlight innovative approaches to acquiring and developing these skills in early childhood, K-12 and higher education — strategies that are positioning communities to have a thriving talent pool for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Click here to join the session using the webinar feature.

Delaware Elementary-One Life Kids

This webinar on April 16 will provide insight into what is being done during the school-age years to prepare our future workforce with these invaluable soft skills. In this second of three webinars, participants will learn:

The importance of continuing to develop soft skills from kindergarten through 12th grade…

-How a leading manufacturing firm came to embrace and actively support the development of soft skills among high school students

-How a network of high-performing charter schools in St. Louis is having success with their character education program

Next session is May 7, 2015 — Cultivating Soft Skills in Workforce Development: Higher Education Initiatives

Listen to the archived first session: March 5, 2015Cultivating Soft Skills in Workforce Development: Early Childhood Initiatives

 

1199 Love Banquet..2015

The South Heights Kids take their families out for the evening.

From Principal Rob Carroll in his weekly staff newsletter…

I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about Saturday night’s big event…”The Love Banquet!” This is truly a one of a kind happening.

Let’s review: Our students earned hundreds of Blazer Bucks in the fall to spend at Santa’s Treasure Island Mall. As you know, they always try to buy for their families first. One of the options, the last two years, is the Love Banquet…a night of food and entertainment offered by a partner of ours!

If you haven’t been…you almost can’t comprehend the “bigness” of it!

IMG_9207Students and their families arrive to a grand dining room that extends through the whole building! They are welcomed by hostesses in white shirts and black pants. As the evening rolls on, our families are fed delicious meals (brought to their tables by volunteer servers), provided with incredible entertainment (thank you Beauty and the Beast cast, Anthony and Mr. DBO), had the chance to win over $2500 in giveaways, and were lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet and listen to former UK/NBA star Kalenna Azubukie!

What a night? Let’s look at the numbers: 280 guests, 100 volunteers, $2500 in giveaways, and $4000 for dinner and extras. That just tells part of the story though. This means so much to the 1199! True partners are not easy to come by. We are blessed with several. This event, in our minds, is such an incredible outpouring of “love” in our students’ direction! Why? Because the volunteers from One Life Church don’t have to do this. That is what makes it so powerful. They choose to! hundreds of hours of planning and preparation with the only outcome being “love” and they chose our kids! Cynthia, Ryan, and the rest of the volunteers…just like you showed our students such incredible love…we want you to know that the feeling is mutual. We care about who cares for our students. It is obvious you do!

This is not about churches and schools. It’s about partners coming together to benefit our kids! ILARAMBAS and thank you! ….Rob Carroll