OUR VIEW: When things seem bleak, think about the givers

File photo 

Bubba Eakes, center, helps his son, JW Eakes, 8, sand a piece of wood as his daughter, Presleigh Eakes, 14, looks on during a Sleep in Heavenly Peace build on Nov. 16. The volunteers serve as one example of the generosity around Meridian and Lauderdale County. 

We were dismayed and saddened at The Meridian Star this week to learn of two terrible events.

As we first reported the night of Saturday, Nov. 23, Almond Turner, a retired assistant police chief and school board member from Covington, Georgia, was shot to death at a birthday party in Meridian.

Almond’s nephew was charged with murder the day after the shooting, and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Monday.

Later in the week, we heard about a 15-year old teen accused of assaulting a woman in her 80s during a home invasion.

The teen, who is also charged with stealing the woman’s car, is being charged as an adult, authorities said Tuesday.

We believe these traumatic events are rare, and don’t reflect the real spirit of the citizens of Meridian and Lauderdale County.

On the front page of each edition of The Meridian Star this week, we’ve published stories about volunteers in our community.

These volunteers come from all walks of life, but have one common goal of improving the quality of life for their fellow citizens.

On Tuesday, The Star’s Bianca Moorman relayed the story of Vivian Hill, who, at age 92, stays busy volunteering at Rush Foundation Hospital. During her 17 years at Rush, Hill has logged more than 2,500 hours and served two terms as president of the Volunteer Auxiliary at the hospital. Earlier this year, she was named the hospital's volunteer of the year.

“It's just nice to get away from home and do something that feels worthwhile,” Hill said.

Retired school teachers Janet Barham and June Estes spend their free time delivering meals around Meridian. Four times a month, Barham picks up Estes at home and they ride through the city, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, as The Star’s Erin Kelly reported on Wednesday.

This week, the meals came with Thanksgiving napkins and a special holiday greeting: “Thinking warm thoughts of you and hoping you’ll have a very happy Thanksgiving. Love, Janet and June.”

On Thanksgiving Day, we learned about Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a group of volunteers who build and delivers bunk beds to children in need. The national non-profit has branches in 47 states, and the Meridian branch is the first one in Mississippi, according to organizer Laura Hester.

“We wanted something that would be useful for our community,” Hester told The Star’s Bill Graham. “And, also, where the community could come together to fulfill that need.”

Editorial assistant Cheryl Owens on Friday told us about Sinnessa Wilburn, who takes her role as an intercessor to heart. Wilburn’s role involves reaching out to people in her church and the community to find out the needs people have and to offer prayers on their behalf.

In today’s paper, The Star’s Matt Case reports on three different people at three local schools, all volunteering for the schools’ athletic programs.

For almost a decade, Donna Sprayberry has been helping students on the Southeast boys basketball team improve their grades, graduate high school and prepare them for success beyond the court.

At Meridian High, Holli Smith keeps the books for the girls basketball team, while at Clarkdale High, Pamela Harrison has fully immersed herself in the athletics boosters and concessions.  

“I enjoy that I can be there and do stuff for the kids,” Harrison said. “I just enjoy supporting them.”

When it comes to generosity around Meridian, this small group of volunteers only scratches the surface.

Every day, in ways big and small, hundreds of people in this community give freely of their time, energy and talent. Most do it quietly and humbly, not seeking praise or favor.

We should remember their giving spirit, especially when things around town seem bleak.

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