Paris Rotarians help to save the lives of children in Africa

It’s hard to believe that there is a person out there with the sacrificial mindset and humble, fearless nature that is required to give a large portion of yourself to the benefit of those in need; on a daily basis and in a place very unlike home and far away.

eParisExtra had the honor and opportunity to sit down with one such woman that has spent much of her life bringing hope to those in an otherwise — seemingly — hopeless land.

Tracy Evans is a lady that has given over thirty years of her life to missionary work.  A native of California and graduate of Stanford, Tracy is now the head of a clinic in Mozambique, Africa with 900 orphan infants.

This clinic she started did not begin with this many young children, most assuredly.  It’s been work and dedication on her part, as well as the many others that have helped her bring this vision to life.

Mozambique is a country that is roughly twice the size of California, running along the south eastern coast of Africa.  The Indian Ocean makes its coastline.  The tropical environment makes the land ideal for farming, and the culture is mostly tribal, although some industry is trying to be established.

Being a mostly tribal land, there are over 48 languages spoken in Mozambique, with Portuguese being the language of commerce.  There is currently a Communist government in place, after years of brutal civil war, which has now ended.

Because of the lack of a constant food source and the tropical environment’s susceptibility to deadly disease, many citizens in Mozambique were dying, including the mothers of many nursing infants.  When this happened, the nursing infants — having their mother’s milk as their one and only food source — were laid to rest beside their mothers.  The alternative would be starvation.

This is where Tracy Evans comes in.  During her travels she arrived in Mozambique.  She was witness to much of this horror.  She decided that feeding these babies and saving the lives of these children was her mission.  A mission that she embarked on.

How did she decide to feed these children?  By using a powdered milk formula.  The only problem was, there was no powdered milk in Mozambique.  So, she hopped in a jeep and drove approximately 2 days, through the very hostile and militant territory of Zimbabwe, to an area of South Africa where she could obtain powdered milk.  She could only get what she could fit in her jeep.  She then drove the 2 day trek back to Mozambique.

She began what is called a ‘Bush Clinic’ to house these orphans, feed and care for them; so that they may sustain life.  The operation started small.

“It started with one child, then ten, then one hundred,”  stated Tracy.

After some time, two members of the Paris Rotary Club walked into the ‘bush clinic’ that Tracy had started.  Dee Bandel and Tamara Ingram, on a Rotarian Study trip, had landed themselves in Mozambique, Africa.  They soon met Tracy, and this encounter would certainly change things for those infants, for the better.

They asked Tracy to speak at a Crisis Pregnancy clinic that was being held in Paris.  After hearing her speak, the Rotarians of Paris Texas then began raising money to purchase a container — 40ft long, capable of holding 15,000 pounds of powdered milk — for the ‘bush clinic’ in Mozambique.  They were able to raise — with the help of Rotary International — over $55,000, giving them the ability to purchase the container and the powdered milk to fill it for Tracy and the orphans in Mozambique.

This project is again in swing this year, as one container will only last approximately 6-8 months, so Rotarians are again attempting to raise funds for this cause.

It means a lot to save the life of a child in Mozambique.

“When we save lives, it gives us extreme favor amongst the tribal people and government,” explained Tracy.

There is now a hospice, a school, the orphan clinic, and many other things being established to care for those in Mozambique, which all require many meetings with government officials and much paperwork to get started and maintain.  Now that so many lives have been saved, and favor gained, it has made the processes easier, which has led to more.

It is really a touching thing to see those amazing people in Paris, on the Greater Paris Rotary Club and Rotary Club of Paris, that have reached out to raise funds for such a far away and huge cause.  With their help and Tracy’s inspiration, there are now 900 orphans that are being cared for and fed using powdered milk, which is held in the container that our Rotarians, and Rotarians around the world, helped to purchase.

City of Paris grant builds man a new home

Paris resident, Homer Spencer, is the lucky recipient of a brand new brick home, funded and built for him by a City of Paris grant for dilapidated homes.  Although the home was funded by this grant, it took about one year’s worth of paperwork and dedication to get this all settled for Mr. Spencer.

Homer Spencer is a home health patient at Premier Home Care & Hospice.  Director of Nurses, Shannon Johnston, and her team of nurses began taking care of him.  After the very first visit, Shannon noticed that his home condition was not livable.  There were holes in the walls and ceiling.  Small animals had even made their way inside.

This prompted Shannon to begin looking for Homer an alternative living arrangement, and hopefully, someday, a new home.

“It all started about a year ago,” Johnston stated.  “While visiting and caring for him at Premier, I noticed he needed a new home.  I began advocating for him and looking.  I found a City of Paris Grant that Homer met the criteria for because his house was dilapidated and unlivable.  Resource Management of Paris helped me through a lot of it.”

Shannon first had to acquire photographs of Homer’s previous home, which were to show the unlivable conditions.  She then helped Mr. Spencer with the applications for the grant and insurance paperwork, amongst other things.

Being that Homer’s health condition hinders him from earning an adequate income and his previous home’s dilapidated condition, he fell into a select group that are eligible.

The City then tore down Homer’s unlivable home and constructed a brand new one in its place, using the grant funds.

According to Johnston, the whole process usually takes up to two full years to complete.  Due to the persistence and hard work, it took Homer’s home only one year, which is very fast.

The house is a beautiful red brick, built by Doyle Whitaker.  A special thanks goes out to the members of the Paris City Council, for it is their work and dedication that acquires the funds for grants such as this.

Leadership Lamar County picks an organization for fundraising, Dancing with the Stars the event

The Leadership Lamar County Class of 2012-2013 has picked the Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society as the organization that they will focus their efforts on for this class.

Five different projects were submitted by local non-profit organizations for review by this year’s class.  The class had discussions and meetings over both, and at their October meeting it was announced, based upon a vote.

The Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society is in the middle of purchasing a new building for their REACH Center (Raising Expectations & Creating Hope) on Lamar Street.  This lead them to request funds for this expansion and renovations in the project outline/presentation submitted to the Leadership Lamar County class.

RRVDSS is an organization that services those in the northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas areas.  Its mission is to improve the lives of individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities through support, education, awareness and advocacy.  They work to realize the complete acceptance and inclusion of individuals with mental disabilities into all aspects of family and community.

Each individual with Down syndrome, or other disability, has his/her own unique personalities, talents and capabilities and need advocates and support in this community — allowing for a better transition into family and community.  This is what the Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society is here to do.

The RRVDSS’ REACH Center is a lifelong education and resource center for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, their families, educators and employers.  They offer one-on-one tutoring, small group instruction for preschool and adult age groups, host educational workshops and trainings for both parents and educators, provide social opportunities for both children and adults with mental disabilities, and provide an up-to-date resource library for the use of our families and educators.

With this larger and more permanent location that the Leadership Lamar County class shall work towards raising funds for, the REACH Center can offer even more programs to the community of Lamar County including a teen/adult educational recreation afternoon program.  This program would fill a great need in the community for people in this age group with mental disabilities.

More classrooms are needed, as well as a ‘rec room’ and a dedicated (and safe) nursery for childcare during parent education sessions.

The RRVDSS is asking for the Leadership class to help with these needs, by providing the funds required to make these needed changes, which should be completed in 6-12 months.

The Leadership class has decided on several ways to raise these funds.  The biggest and main fundraiser will be the local favorite, Dancing with the Stars.  However, there will also be a big golf tournament, softball tournament, basketball tournament, a ‘save-your-dimes-for-Down-syndrome’ campaign — which will fill empty soda bottles with dimes, custom t-shirts, and many other things.

The Leadership class will decide upon the dancers for Dancing with the Stars at their November meeting, with nominations and voting being held in the weeks before.

There will be more Leadership Lamar County updates, such as the dancers for Dancing with the Stars, locations of fundraisers, meeting updates, and more.

United Way Report: Currently over 60% of goal reached

This year’s United Way of Lamar County campaign set a goal of $535,000 and they are well on their way — already 68% — to reaching it, thanks to the generous citizens and businesses of Lamar County.

At the weekly ‘Report Out’ meeting on Friday, they were just 32% away from the target goal, with only one week left in the campaign.

Many citizens and businesses have stepped up to pledge money to United Way, host bake sales, auctions, ‘blitz’ for donations, host events, and countless other things to help and make this campaign a success.

Paris Regional Medical Center, who set a goal of $50,000, is 91% complete.

The United Way ‘Wednesday Blitz’, where volunteers went out to business to ask for donations, made over $7000 in just two hours.

Kimberly Clark set a goal of $140,000 and are currently just over half way complete.  Campbell Soup’s goal is $75,000.

Oncor has pledged around $7500 and Harrison Walker & Harper has raised over $12000.

The school districts have raised over $9000.

There are countless other businesses and citizens that are also pledging funds and raising funds and awareness for United Way, which all helps the 2013 Campaign.

In comparison to last year, the industry division of United Way fundraising is 30% above where it was at last year, and the entire campaign is 26% above where it was at last year.

The United Way of Lamar County has raised $364,327 thus far for the 2013 Campaign.

The following partnering agencies will benefit from the funds raised in this campaign for the work that they do in Lamar County:

Education

Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, Imagination Library of Lamar County, Lamar County Coalition of Education, Business & Industry, Lamar County Literacy Council, Northeast Texas Southeast Oklahoma Council of Boy Scouts, and the Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society.

Income

American Red Cross, Lamar County Child Welfare Board, Habitat for Humanity, The Kings Daughters & Sons, The Salvation Army, YWCA of Paris and Lamar County

Health/Support Services

CASA for Kids, Children’s Advocacy Center, East Texas Council on Alcoholism & Drug Addiction (ETCADA), Innovative Enterprises, Lamar County Human Resource Council (Meals on Wheels), Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, and SAFE-T

Keep watching the Extra! for United Way updates. 

Lamar County Humane Association is awarded $10,000 check from PETCO Foundation

The Lamar County Humane Association was awarded their prize money for their win in the PETCO Foundation’s 100 Celebrations Contest on Facebook.

The check was presented to the Humane Association on Saturday morning at Paris’ PetCo store.  A plaque was also given to  General Manager and Store Associates of Paris PetCo for their contributions in helping the Lamar County Humane Association to be a part of the PETCO Foundation’s 100 Celebrations Contest.

Staff and associates at the Paris Petco wrote essays to the foundation to nominate our Humane Association for the contest.  Only 100 non-profit organizations across the country were chosen and over 200,000 votes were cast to decide the 10 winners.

The top 10 won $10,000…the Lamar County Humane Association came in ninth with just over 5000 votes.

It is amazing to see this small community step up to take on a national contest like this one.  Congratulations to the Lamar County Humane Association and the Paris PetCo.

Please go and ‘Like’ the Lamar County Humane Association on Facebook by clicking here!