As we jump into the New Year, one of my family’s oldest traditions is to spend some time reflecting on our favorite memories. My youngest loved talking about playing soccer and other sports, and my oldest enjoyed recalling those long summer nights spent laughing with friends. While Beth and I cherish many amazing memories from 2013, the time reflecting always leaves me searching for ways to make a greater impact this New Year.
One of the things I am most proud of as a lawmaker is the tremendous pride and spirit of giving that is so apparent in Denton County. Many recognize the holiday season as a wonderful time when people seem to care the most – food drives, toy collections, angel trees, and holiday greetings resonate in our communities. It truly is a magical experience to see people reaching out to help others. However, as we all wind down from a hectic season, let’s remember not to pack away our giving hearts and find new ways to lend a hand to others throughout the year.
I am blessed to come into contact with wonderful organizations and volunteers who are selflessly working to help well beyond the Christmas season. Many of these individuals work behind the scenes and their service often goes largely unnoticed. I want to highlight a few local inspiring people, and hope you too will look upon their dedication as you make your resolutions for 2014.
A great example of selfless giving is through the work of Mandy Cleveland, the lead riding instructor at Stable Strides Farm in Flower Mound. Stable Strides is a riding program for those with disabilities who are often faced with limited opportunities to experience the life-lessons and joys associated with competitive sports. Mandy is known for taking an approach of endless possibilities and enthusiasm for finding new pathways to success for her students all year round. Her gentle encouragement gives her students the timeless gift of confidence, something that will last a lifetime.
Often during the Christmas season, organizations such as Metroport Meals on Wheels receive an influx of calls from people wanting to help volunteer their time to help seniors receive a hot meal. While these annual volunteers are essential to the organization, the program would not be able to remain standing without the faithful commitment of those who help every day. Many have been actively working with the program for over 30 years, such as Ms. Kelly who faithfully continues to deliver meals each week and Ms. Vertalee who just recently had to stop driving but whose daughter and son-in-law stepped in to keep the family tradition alive.
Thirdly, when I consider individuals who consistently are giving of themselves to help others, my mind immediately jumps to Flower Mound area citizens John Fox with Victory Mortgage and Shelly Dodge of Visionary Financial Group. All year, John and Shelly work to combat homelessness in our community, an issue that unfortunately affects a much larger population in Denton County than many might imagine, especially among children. It is estimated that there are 1.3 million homeless teens living on the streets in America today, with over 500 students considered homeless in LISD alone.
While I have been working to find legislative solutions to bring greater support and awareness, the real impact is taking place every day through caring citizens who are dedicated to making a substantial difference. Every second Tuesday of the month, you can find John and Shelly at Bari’s Italian Restaurant in Flower Mound where proceeds are dedicated to help The Shelter Fund. One of my greatest Christmas gifts this year was seeing the joy on everyone’s face when the Shelter Fund presented a $7,000 donation to the Journey to Dream/YOTO program to help them continue to provide temporary shelter for homeless teens.
While many area volunteers go largely unnamed, they represent the men and women that make our community great. I have been personally touched by countless stories of giving, and I can only imagine how many more stories remain untold.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives, and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. Please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.