Goza exemplifies volunteer spirit

Published 9:17 pm Saturday, February 22, 2014

One does not have to look far to find the real reason why some organizations are just more successful than others. The secret is simple; there is one common denominator – the strength of involvement by members of the organization. Dedication and involvement beget success.

Communities are no different. Look around our state and one can quickly see that some cities and towns are just more vibrant than others. While each has a core of volunteers – for all communities have volunteers; some just have more dedicated ones, a step above the rest. A visit to such communities and one can see a certain confidence in the eyes of its citizens, you can feel the extra pride and a spirit of enthusiasm that is contagious.

In years past, I have written about how Brookhaven was an over-achiever compared to other similar and larger communities across the state. Ranked about 30th in population size, we consistently ranked amongst top 20 in sales tax receipts. Our community spirit allowed us to become a regional retail trade center; it opened doors for industrial development. Efforts by so many, over the years, have allowed this community to grow and prosper.

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Our community spirit impressed the Mississippi Legislature in 1999 and opened the doors for the founding of the Mississippi School of the Arts. The state invested some $30 million into our city and county, mainly on the spirit of enthusiasm of our citizens and the vision we brought to them.

It was the same type of volunteerism that allowed Brookhaven and Lincoln County to soar again with our implementation of the Mississippi Scholars program in our public and private schools. Mississippi Scholars is a statewide program set up by the Mississippi Economic Council some 10 years ago to encourage communities to improve local schools, allowing graduates to better compete when they reach college.

A small group of local volunteers latched on to the program in 2006. While other communities gave the program a glance, ours put its full effort into it. What started with a recognition dinner for 26 students and a congratulatory handshake has now turned into a banquet for more than 500. There is still the same congratulatory handshake, but it now includes scholarships for each graduate, last year totaling over $130,000.

Our local scholars program is not only recognized statewide but nationally! Lincoln County’s Mississippi Scholars is a success because of a single element – community volunteers.

Wednesday afternoon, a retirement celebration was held for Kenny Goza at the Entergy office on Highway 51 South. Kenny is retiring from Entergy after 40 years of service. While working a full-time job with Entergy all those years, Kenny devoted countless hours to his community.

His presence could be seen at many Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and other community events – without those efforts, some of those events may have never happened!

It was Kenny, along with Kay Burton, who took on the Mississippi Scholars program in 2006. Their joint efforts inspired many other volunteers, generating more than $635,000 in scholarships to now almost 1,200 local high school graduates.

Monday morning, Kenny starts a new chapter in his life as the state coordinator for a new phase of the statewide Mississippi Scholars Program with the Mississippi Economic Council. Brookhaven is one of the pilot communities.

His leadership in Brookhaven will be missed. Kenny made a difference in our community, and we are better for it. That is what volunteerism is all about!

We thank Kenny for his dedication, effort and inspiration.

Bill Jacobs is the former publisher of The Daily Leader.