Palestine Magazine January 2019 - Page 52

Lynn Willhite Renewing Palestine’s neighborhoods Lynn Willhite’s concern about the numbers of young people whose lives were being affected by crime and drugs in the community and the increasing numbers of elderly who are disconnected led to the creation of WE CARE Palestine in 2016. This year, the neighborhood renewal pro- gram has gained members and bridged neighborhoods with each other, and built friendships with people across the city. Born and raised in Palestine, Willhite, 73, returned to Anderson County as a retiree with her husband, Leon. She has worked hard to strengthen Palestine’s neighborhoods to improve the lives of residents, families, and children. The group’s racially and culturally diverse action team meets monthly to plan activities and celebrate successes. We Care Palestine also seeks grants and community support for its initiatives, including building Friendship Houses. The group has already recruited 200 residents for its renewal team and 14 trained block leaders. 1,500 hours of volunteer work. WE CARE is modeled after Community Renewal International in Shreve- port, Louisiana. The nationally known Shreveport program has reduced crime by strengthening positive relationships in neighborhoods. Willhite has also made a difference as a volunteer math instructor at the Multicultural Education Center, helping her students earn a high school equivalency diploma. In this role, she mentors young adults. A retired United Methodist pastor, Willhite previously led churches in Elkhart, Austin, and Waco. She has a master of mathematics degree from Texas A&M University, where she taught for three years, and a Master of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Matt Davis Educating the community to save lives Matt Davis made an enormous difference in 2018 by teaching others to save lives. The director of emergency medical services at Palestine Regional Medical Center received the Mercy Award of 2018. Davis’ programs enable bystanders to save lives in the critical moments before an ambu- lance arrives. Davis developed a mobile health program, where EMS workers check on and coach high-risk patients in their homes. He looks for opportunities for his 40 full-time and 20 part-time employ- ees to participate in health fairs, speak to community organizations, and teach students. In his emergency medical dispatch program, dispatchers read emer- gency procedures that bystanders or family members can follow while an ambulance is en route. A child-care class teaches how to handle infant emergencies. At the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, Davis promoted hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation, stressing the importance of first response. Davis serves as a reserve deputy for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, providing monthly medical training. He also teaches at Trinity Val- ley Community College, and serves as a member of the college’s EMS Advisory Board. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our services to the commu- nity,” Davis said.