Go-Giver Gala soars: Funds to tackle Highway 80
by Joycelyne Fadojutimi
The first Go-Giver Gala to benefit Longview’s homeless residents was a sterling success. But wait, the second annual Go-Giver gala was the tops. Those who attended the Maude Cobb Center extravaganza savored a whirlwind of dining, dancing and recognition of the town’s top Go-Givers. Those so honored this year are: Chuck King, Keith Honey, Janis Canion and Joyce Williams.
The mayor expressed his gratitude to the Go-Givers for their work in this crucial matter, and for how the proceeds from the event will aid area homeless persons and families.
“It was a phenomenal event. Longview is the greatest place to live because of the incredibly kindhearted and generous people who live here. I never expected such a huge turnout for the first year,” he said. “But Longview never lets me down.” That was last year.
His honor also acknowledged the volunteers who gave so much effort to insure the Go-Givers Gala was such a victory for its cause.
In 2018, Mayor Andy Mack said, “Julie Woods, her friends and city staff including Maude Cobb employees hit it out of the park,” he said. “It will be hard to top this effort.” In 2019, Julie Woods, her friends and the City of Longview including the donors surprised Mack. They exceeded expectations in all areas topping last year’s Go-Giver gala. For one thing, the audience learned more about Chuck King’s generosity. He paid his staff who were not working while his Chick-Fil-A franchise on the Loop was being rebuilt.
Accountability is important in all things. For this reason, Mack, gave a brief history of the how and when the Go-Give donations were utilized. In 2017, Mack assembled a task force charged with addressing the ongoing, growing problem of homelessness in the city. This panel of 35 members repeatedly came together to devise and discuss strategy to help those forced to live on the streets. After pooling their mental resources and experiences for six months, they presented some proposals to assist those who most need it. Here are the results:
*The creation of a work program overseen by the House of Disciples to provide gainful employment for all those wishing to work. This will give the homeless what they desire most–the ability to earn their own way out of their seemingly hopeless situations without having to accept charity.
*Forming a homeless outreach team in collaboration with the Longview Police Department, assigning two full-time officers specifically to protect, educate, advocate for and be a resource for the local homeless population.
*Supplying workers with transportation to and from their new jobs, with warm meals, clothing and mentorship. These jobs will be tailored for a day-to-day basis or as long-term, whichever is more amenable to individuals.
*Modified park benches more suited for sitting rather than sleeping on.
*No-panhandling zones to assist local businesses to thrive.
*Annual or semi-annual service fairs so that organizations dedicated to helping the homeless can assemble to collaborate in their efforts to improve the situation. The first of these Homeless Resource Days was in March 2018 and was a great success. The next one was recently held January 22, 2019.
It is very important to note the 2018 Go-Giver Gala funds funded these resources. This year’s donations will concentrate on improving Highway 80. This is crucial because Highway 80 is a significant and vital thoroughfare that runs right through Longview, providing transportation to the local economy. Also, the highway is lined with numerous motels, restaurants and assorted businesses that are central to the city’s financial health, providing residents with jobs and attracting money-spending visitors. Jucy’s, Pizza King, Hot Dog Express, and Good Shepherd Medical Center are all located on the highway. Other local establishments have used the Highway 80 corridor for their own expansion. These include Longview Lawn and Garden, Richard Parker Plumbing, Zippy J’s, and Taco Bell. Some properties, however, have wilted and gone under. His Honor Andy Mack aims to stop this trend.
“I don’t want to cast blame on any particular properties or property owners. I want us to imagine together for a different future for a revitalized Highway 80,” he said. “Various stretches of Highway 80 see between 15,000 and 30,000 cars per day. As a community, we need to make the most of that. I want us to dream big for an improved Longview.”
Mack intends for the Go-Giver Gala to raise funds for Highway 80 to further investments that have already financed redevelopment of the Globe Inn and American Dream Inn. He envisions Teague Park having a highly visible, beautiful entrance onto Highway 80. This park is a major local attraction that presently cannot be seen from the highway. It has already received an upgraded playground, restrooms, and a veterans’ plaza. Mack sees potential for improvements to the stretch of Highway 80 that leads west into Longview and carries heavy traffic.
“Let’s imagine new businesses and new buildings filling in the gaps where vacant or underutilized properties currently stand,” he said. “My goal with this presentation is not to say that we need to do these three particular projects. My goal is to say that we need to be proactive and do something.”
Mack is aware all these upgrades and the homeless issues will not be funded by just one night of money-raising. He does, however, see promise in the progress that has already been made.
“To me, the important thing is to try. To take a step forward, to make progress where we can. To encourage others to follow suit and be Go-Givers. To get the ball moving forward,” he said.
He envisions making improvements one at a time, raising Highway 80 to the status of a life-giving jugular for Longview’s financial well-being.
“Let’s dream bigger for Longview,” he said.
But that is not all. There is more.
Julie Woods chaired the 2019 Go-Giver Gala held in order to raise monies for improvements to Highway 80. Following Mack’s speech expounding on the projects the fun-raiser supports and on their impact on Longview, Woods took the podium and did a fine job of following up his tough act. Her words were as critically important as his
“You may be thinking, ‘I don’t even live over there,’ or ‘I don’t drive over there, so this doesn’t matter to me.’ Well, I am here to tell you it matters to all of us.”
She spoke on how it is crucial for the city’s main thoroughfare to appear well-maintained and as the location of numerous thriving businesses. This highway helps finance an infrastructure that supports local hospitals and healthcare in general, the historic venues that attract cash-carrying tourists, and serves as the main feed into the city’s center. Downtown live music events, shops, restaurants, the courthouse, and soon-to-be housing in the old Petroleum Building could not function without the access provided by Highway 80. She also made it clear, the event was a strictly-for-Longview function.
“You can rest assured that not one dollar given tonight will leave Longview. Not one,” she said. “We have already shown you how hard your dollars are working from last year’s event. They are making a difference in the lives of many people. Won’t it be wonderful to drive down that road one day and know that you did something to improve it?
Every table in the venue was well-supplied with envelopes in which attendees could place their contributions. Almost everybody did. Longview’s residents have a long history of helping each other. Earlier fund raisers paid for body cameras for the city’s policemen, handicapped-accessible swings for municipal parks, computer repairs, scholarships for area high school students, and even postage stamps for those who could not afford them.
Mack and Woods had noted how around the word non-profit charitable organizations used fund raisers to finance their noble causes. This led to these two Longview public servants coming up with the idea for the Go-Giver Gala. At the local, Longview level, it gives an opportunity to those who otherwise would never have an opportunity at an improved quality of life.
“It was a unique concept, but one that was worth taking a risk on,” said Woods. “Because of you, who have donated more than $158,000 in cash, and $35,000 of in-kind services to make Longview a better place.