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MONIQUE BATSON — As COVID fears calm, it’s time to help groups & organizations in our community

It was a typo that introduced me to Mr. Charles Gongre. The former English teacher emailed me to — kindly — let me know I had made a grammatical error in a column. (Thankfully it was only one.)

We talked through email, discussed our work experience and learned we both lived in Port Neches. And not long after, he invited me as a guest to the Kiwanis Club of Jefferson County meeting.

While I had heard of the Kiwanis Club, I was not familiar with the organization’s mission. It was there I met a wonderful group of people who work hard to raise funds for scholarships. They sponsor service organizations at every grade level, such as high school Key Clubs. But I also learned that funds aren’t always easy to come by, which has a direct impact on the youth in our community.

Service organizations by large have suffered since the start of the pandemic. Memberships are declining. Participation has dropped. People have stopped volunteering. And fundraisers have been difficult to host, particularly at the height of the shutdown when restaurants were closed to indoor diners.

These clubs and groups that stepped up to help so many through the COVID crisis now need the same from us.

Since joining the Port Arthur News in March, I’ve had the pleasure of attending meetings and events for several service organizations.

My first assignment was with the Port Arthur Rotary Club and 100 Black Men of Greater Beaumont, who surprised shoppers at H-E-B on Gulfway Drive with $50 gift cards as they approached the cash register.

I was present at a Rotary Club meeting as Cosmopolitan Masonic Lodge No. 172 presented the Port Arthur Health Department with a number of honors for their efforts in leading COVID vaccinations. And it’s a health department that relies on volunteers to help with those efforts.

In 2016, when Deweyville suffered historic flooding, I volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse and spent the day helping strip a damaged home. The couple had lived there for 50 years and sat quietly on the porch as a group of strangers removed interior walls, took down cabinets and essentially erased decades of memories one nail at a time. It was heartbreaking work, but it brought them one step closer to rebuilding what was lost.

Not long after, I spent a day with Habitat for Humanity in Beaumont, working on a home for a single father. That time I took my oldest child out of school to join. I knew he would learn more from that experience than anything on the syllabus.

Once, my family spent a Saturday picking up trash at Tugboat Island just so the children would understand that complaining doesn’t change anything. Change comes with action.

I soon will be a member of both the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, and I look forward to learning about other organizations in our community.

Join me. Spend some time searching the Internet for service organizations. If you don’t want to become a member, attend one of their fundraisers. Look through Facebook Events for opportunities to volunteer or get involved with groups around you.

After a year that seemed hopeless, we’re finally starting to find a sense of normalcy. What better way to celebrate that than by helping those who helped us?

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.