Kids need a caring community
Representives from many facets of the community -- schools, churches, the Brewton Area YMCA, Hope Place and more -- turned out for Monday's Kids Count Summit with Linda Tilly, executive director of Voices for Alabama's Children.
I think it says great things about our community that so many took their time to come together for the purpose of understanding where this county's children stand in terms of well-being. And beyond a desire to understand the problems, I got the sense that the group was eager to take action and act as real advocates for this county's children.
At the meeting, Brewton pediatrician Dr. Marsha Raulerson shared an anecdote that I thought was particularly insightful, and I hope I can accurately retell it here.
During a Chicago heat wave several years ago, many senior citizens died, and afterward, a study was done of two adjacent communities, one where more than 10 people had died and one where only a few had died. The objective was to determine what about those communities might have resulted in very different death tolls during the heat wave.
What researchers found was that one of the communities -- the one with fewer deaths -- was clean and manicured and its residents were active in the community and involved in each other's lives. In the second community, that was not the case, leaving more elderly people unattended and without the community's attention to their well-being.
As Dr. Raulerson pointed out, a community where its people actively care for and look after one another, the emotional and health needs of the people are better supported.
For children, that means creating a community where they are safe from crime and bad influences. A place that provides them with educational and esteem-building activities. A community that supports their positive behaviors and doesn't leave time for risky behaviors.
I think that Brewton has a lot of those attributes. The schools here give children opportunities to be involved in sports, academic teams, other extracurricular activities. The Brewton Public Library provides reading programs for small kids and young adults. Southern Normal's Learning to Read Through the Arts program is reaching kids after school, on weekends and through the summer. The Brewton Area YMCA and local Little League programs offer even more opportunity for involvement.
The hard part is reaching the children who are not under the good influence of these programs. What I can see from Monday's Kids Count Summit is that there are people in Brewton and East Brewton who care about reaching those children.
It's a matter of looking out for their health, protecting their safety, encouraging their ambitions and educating them in things academic, social and civic.