In Heber Springs and Cleburne County we are blessed with a number of organizations that improve the general welfare. One such organization that is relatively new and gets little recognition is the Cleburne County Community Foundation.
The Cleburne County organization is one of 27 such affiliates of the Arkansas Community Foundation. The Arkansas Community Foundation is in the business of providing resources to make charitable giving in our state more effective.
Our local chapter has given more than $100,000 to charitable and community minded entities in just the last few years. But our organization is much more than that. Through brilliant leadership of Brenda Hill, our Executive Director, and assistance from the state association we encourage local non-profits to use their human and monetary resources most effectively.
Of course, it all starts with having a core of endowment capital which allows us to fund the local operations and to grant financial help to non-profits in this area. These endowments can be established with a minimum of ten thousand dollars and the earnings
from these endowments can be distributed to the charity of your choice.
The Arkansas Community Foundation has developed a tool for community leaders. This tool is called Aspire Arkansas which is a booklet of valuable information. It compares Arkansas with the other states in categories of education, health issues, poverty, income, unemployment and charitable giving.
The chart below ranks Arkansas with other states in these categories.
High School Degree Completed – 82.7% 44
Bachelors Degree Obtained - 19.6% 50
Page 2 of 3 - Graduate Degree Obtained - 6.6% 51
Median Household Income - $38,889 49
Voter Turnout - 51.0% 47
Obese Adults - 67.2% 8
Cigarette Smokers - 22.9% 4
Living in Poverty - 19.3% 4
In addition it compares our 75 counties in these various categories. For example the median household income in Cleburne County in 2011 was $42,265 compared to
$28,467 in St. Francis County and $52,644 in Benton County. For people living in poverty Cleburne County came in at 16.2 percent while St. Francis County was 32.9 percent and Benton County registered 12.1 percent.
There are vast amounts of information in Aspire Arkansas that community leaders should find valuable. It is the intent of the Cleburne County Foundation to share this information with community leaders and where applicable use it to identify needs and to instigate programs for improvement.
Page 3 of 3 - An analysis of this data reveals some definite needs for all of us in Arkansas. We are pretty much bottom of the barrel on high school and college graduation rates, median household income and voter turnout. The categories where we register in the top ten are obese adults, cigarette smokers and living in poverty – not too much to brag about.
A couple of weeks ago, a column was written discussing how wonderful it is we have such an illustrious history on Arkansas politicians. Remember how Arkansas senators and Arkansas governors were glorified? Their legacy has been to establish the foundation for poverty and lack of education accomplishments in this state.
Similarly until 2012 the Democrats had a virtual lock on both Houses of the Legislature for the last 140 years. Might it be there is some correlation between rigid Democrat control and our historical poor showing in critical areas?
The column didn’t mention we have the proud history of an ex-president who taught our youth about oral sex and is one of two presidents to be impeached or a congressman that embarrassed all of us with his romp with a Washington D.C. stripper. Don’t forget our Democrat governor who stood on the schoolhouse steps in Little Rock forbidding blacks to attend school. These little jewels hardly register as proud accomplishments.
History tells us the break that finally came to bring us out of the economic doldrums came not from the Democrat side but came in the form of Rockefeller, a Republican. Almost single handily he was the impetus for showing Arkansas how to use their resources for economic gain. If not for Rockefeller, we might be fifty-first today in all unfavorable categories.
Look at our neighbor states that have elected Republican leaders for years. Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma have successfully recruited industry much better than Arkansas. They have no income taxes or smaller tax rates than our state. The whole philosophy changes when you have leaders who concentrate on industry growth rather than spend time courting and working with Kathleen Sebelius to receive more government funding.
(Jerry Jackson of Heber Springs writes his “conservative viewpoint” column each week