Slacktivities In Jacksonville

imageMy first memories as a child were growing up on a street called Gina Circle in a town called Jacksonville, Arkansas. I was too young to realize it at the time, but it was the kind of neighborhood where you make sure to lock your doors and to not leave anything outside that you don’t want stolen. As I grew up, I had a vague understanding that my high school wasn’t as cool as the next town over, Cabot, or any of the schools in Little Rock, about 20 minutes away. From what I could tell, my school didn’t have PTA meetings, we didn’t have ACT/SAT study groups, we didn’t have local companies come in to sponsor events, we didn’t have teachers who really even seemed like they wanted to be there.

But it was home. It was where I learned how to swing a bat and where I learned how to shoot a 3 pointer. It was where I grew into myself and first began to learn that I don’t have to fit into the same mold as everyone else to be happy. I had several really great friends there in that city, and several members of the community who invested a lot of time and effort in me. Upon returning from my adventures in 2012, I found myself drawn back to Jacksonville. I had a job opportunity to start at an entry level position in a bank, and I happened to be working right in the heart of this forgotten city. At first, I would duck into the work room whenever somebody that I recognized walked into the lobby or came through the drive-through. It wasn’t until I had received a promotion in the town of Conway (a 30 minute drive away) and then, strangely enough, received another promotion back to my branch in Jacksonville, that I began to see the value in growing up in a city, living there your whole life, knowing everybody, and being in a career that allows you to dig in and help improve things.

Part of my job description now is to help “foster a positive image in the community” which translates into some really cool community service opportunities. I jumped in headfirst, hopeful to begin making some sort of an impact while building our brand in the Jacksonville market. In my particular company, there was never really any ownership among the associates when it came to this city. Most employees lived in a neighboring city and commuted in or had only recently relocated to Jacksonville. I realized that I could offer an insight into the needs of the community better than any of the other associates that I worked with. The first order of business was to get involved in a civic club.. In addition to rubbing shoulders with some of the more prominent business leaders in the city, it gave me an outlet to begin shouldering some responsibility when it came to fundraising for special projects and it allowed me to keep my ear to the ground as the city moved forward in the area of community development.

At first, I joined the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club, which was a small club that really struggled to identify its direction and build momentum and, as a result, disbanded about a year ago. We merged with the Jacksonville Sertoma Club. Yes, I realize that Sertoma sounds like a disease. I don’t judge you at all for thinking that. In case you are curious, it stands for SERvice TO MAnkind. Get it? Apparently there’s a song and there might even be a dance. I may even learn it one of these days. One thing that this group does is fundraise every year to provide Christmas items to kids who are in financially tough situations, so that they can receive toys, shoes, coats and essentials during the Christmas season. Sertoma also gives a couple of scholarships in the city and head up several other cool community projects. This year, I am the guy in charge of ensuring that we raise at least $10,000 for the Christmas fundraiser. We had a meeting this morning to finalize some of the details on this project and it’s going to be very exciting. It’s pretty overwhelming but I believe that it is totally doable. If you’re thinking in the back of your mind, You know, I’d like to help RS with that, DON’T WORRY! You’ll have a chance, we’ll talk soon.

Another way that I was looking to get involved was through the local Boys & Girls Club. I had played ball through the Club when I was a kid and I had heard some really amazing statistics about how kids that were plugged into the Boys & Girls Club were significantly less likely to be a part of gang-related violence or drug abuse. I got an invite to join the Board of Directors, and am really excited about the direction that the Club is heading. I’m learning a ton about the behind the scenes workings of a nonprofit.

Probably one of the most exciting (possible) changes that is happening in Jacksonville is that we have been given the opportunity to vote for separating into our own school district. This is huge for a number of reasons, but we think that Jacksonville having its own school district will drastically increase the quality of life for everyone in the city. There is a vote that is happening within the next few months which will begin the long process of launching the new district. There will be some fun and exciting new challenges as we work to create the best district in the state.

As you can tell, this city is a part of me and I am very hopeful that it takes the step into greatness over the coming years. It is a challenging and exciting step to be working with such movers and shakers that are making all of this happen. Stay tuned for more info on new developments here. In the meantime, what about you? What meaningful ways have you found to be involved in your communities? Please share!


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