A week ago Monday evening the Cleburne Country Community Foundation hosted its annual patron appreciation celebration.

A week ago Monday evening the Cleburne Country Community Foundation hosted its annual patron appreciation celebration.  The purpose of this event is to honor non-profit organizations and grant awards usually ranging from $1,000 to $1,500.

            This year’s event was special in a couple of ways.  First, we gave recognition to Bill and Jo Wells and the work of the Christian Health Center.  This health organization

has served over 3,600 individuals in the last decade and dispersed over 55,000 needed prescriptions.  The patients served were those that fell between the cracks and not being helped by Medicare or Medicaid.  With the leadership of Bill and Jo Wells and many volunteers these patients not only received medical care but counseling on life’s problems and emphasis on the importance of quitting smoking.

In addition to the many hours devoted through this organization by both professionals and laypersons which cannot be measured in dollars, the Christian Health Center worked with major drug companies and have received with no cost about 12 million dollars of prescription drugs.  Each drug company had its own specifications so considerable paper work was required to fulfill these requirements.

            As a board member I have witnessed not only the volunteer work but the financial generosity of many individuals, organizations, churches and foundations.  The list of those giving to the Christian Health Center is impressive.  Many special events held in this community made the center the financial beneficiary.  Bill and Jo Wells and the board always welcomed this support but because of this generosity fund raising was not a major problem.

            Sadly, the activity of the Christian Health Center has come to a close.  The last patients were seen during the month of March.  Other non-profits are already benefiting from its closing.  Furniture, computers and lab equipment have been given to a start-up facility in southern Africa.  Prescription drugs have been given to another health center and plans are underway for the building itself to be moved and used for the Dream Center here in Cleburne County.

            Dr. Bill Wells made an interesting comment in connection with receiving this special recognition.  He indicated it shouldn’t be bad news the clinic is closing as these patients should now receive medical assistance that cannot be given by the limited resources of the Christian Health Center.

            Being somewhat a skeptic of the new healthcare act I do hope that Bill’s wish will come about.  Even if it does we cannot escape the fact the federal government will be burdened with the annual cost of millions of dollars in both professional services and prescriptions drugs that have been given at no cost to either the patients or a government entity.

            The second special announcement at this year’s event of the Community Foundation was that the Executive Director, Brenda Hill, will be retiring from this position.  Well over a hundred people at this event thanked her for her outstanding work for the last decade.

            Brenda came on board shortly after the Cleburne County Foundation came into existence about ten years ago.  She has done an outstanding job of serving the community and herding the cats (otherwise know as the Foundation’s Board of Directors) through their duties and responsibilities.

            Brenda not only performs her duties with imagination, efficiency and good cheer, the guests Monday night witnessed her singing ability.  All her accomplishments go forward even though she is battling a serious physical condition.

            There are 27 different affiliates of the Arkansas Community Foundation  (Cleburne County being one) and Brenda has been used by the state organization to help train and inspire other executive directors.  Heather Larkin, the statewide leader of the Arkansas Foundation was in attendance and heaped praise on Brenda’s contributions.

            Although Brenda is leaving and as the old clique goes, “times they are a changing”, there is good news galore for the Community Foundation.  First Brenda is staying in this area and will continue to serve on the board of the local foundation.  Her experience and abilities will be an important cog in the machinery of the foundation.

            Secondly, we are indeed fortunate to have as Brenda’s replacement our new Executive Director, Kathy Phillips. Kathy comes to us with an impressive resume of service in the non-profit field and has outstanding recommendations from all that have worked with her.  She has lived and served in various communities in Arkansas and we are gratified she and her family have moved back to this community.  She is well qualified to continue as an outstanding executive director.

            Finally, although we will miss the great services provided by the Christian Health Center, there are many community wide charitable and educational organizations that go on continuously.  I also know of others that are just starting up.  One of those is known as “Peer Power” which is being formed to dramatically assist students who need help in effectively grasping basic mathematics, science and language skills.  Mark Brugner is the driving force behind Peer Power and you will hear more about it in the near future. 

The Beat Goes On.


(James Jackson’s “A different perspective” columns are submitted as an opinion editorial and are not meant to represent an official view of The Sun-Times.  He can be reached at jjackson@thesuntimes.com)