The end of 2015 is here. I am the edge of turning 69 years of age and if all goes well I will see 70 next year. Old age came upon me so quick I didn’t have time to plan what I wanted to be when I grew up. Simply by making it this far the school of life has taught me a few things. One of the biggest revelations is that there is no “secret” to life, you just live it and hope you survive. Another awakening is to not look for miracles but to be thankful for everything you have and not envy those who seem to have more.
We take for granted some of the simple things in life and fail to be thankful until they are taken away. A perfect example of this is water. During the week of November 8 a major waterline break in Port Arthur resulted in a boil water notice for everyone south of highway 73. At first it was a bit inconvenient for those on that side of town. Then the first call for help came from school superintendent, Dr. Mark Porterie. He asked if we could get bottles of water for the 12 campuses in the area. No problem. Our members quickly donated 30,000 bottles for Port Arthur ISD and Sabine Pass ISD. Not having been through this before I thought the problem was solved. However, while drinking water is important, flushing water is more important. As the day progressed Dr. Porterie was forced to notify parents they could pick up their children. Twelve campuses without toilets is a bigger health threat than a few hours of having to drink boiled water. Lamar Port Arthur State College was also closed.
Slowly over the next few days I noticed restaurants and businesses south of 73 were closed. The health department had ordered restaurants to stop serving food because of the possibility of contaminated water. It is eerie driving by business after business with empty parking lots. It became clear how important a good infrastructure is to everyday life. Considering the size of the break the city accomplished the repair, cleanup and health test as fast as they could. We all prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters but sometimes we forget how precious our utility lifelines are until they are gone. The next time there is a budget discussion and the topic comes up about whether we spend our money on parks or water lines, remember the great water break of November 2015. We need to get our water system updated and collecting for the water used.
November was also the month the Port Arthur Education Foundation awarded their first teacher grants. Eleven grants, totaling slightly less than $10,000.00, were distributed to campuses of the Port Arthur ISD for the purpose of funding teaching programs not otherwise funded by the district. This is just the first of the goals, set by the foundation, to be completed. Foundation brochures were designed, printed and mailed to selected businesses for the purpose of introducing them to this new project. I also met with Kristi Heid, superintendent, of Sabine Pass ISD to discuss with her the possibility of getting SPISD involved in this project. We sometimes forget SPISD is within the city limits of Port Arthur and over a hundred of their students reside within the 77640 zip code. They may be 20 miles down the coast but we cannot afford to exclude any of our resident students in our effort to have the best schools in the area.
The rest of November was spent getting ready for the holidays. From Thanksgiving week through January 2 many of the chamber volunteers are away enjoying time with their families. The retail members are taking advantage of the busiest time of their year so it is difficult to find anyone interested in sitting in on a meeting. We did find enough members to plan our 116th annual banquet. It will be on January 21st, 2016 at the Bob Bowers Civic Center. Incoming chairperson, Barbara Phillips with Valero, has secured Angela Salinas, Chief Executive Officer, Girl Scouts Southeast Texas, Major General U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) as our speaker. Invitations have been e-mailed to all members. On that evening the chamber will recognize outgoing chairman, Paul Chargois and welcome Barbara Phillips as the 2015 chairperson. We will also recognize our new board members, the 2015 Stilwell Award recipient, retiring directors, committee chairpersons, and ambassador of the year and small business of the year. The reception will begin at 6:00 pm.
2016, 2016. I’m just trying to get used to writing, typing and saying it. If you would like to make 2016 the year you join the team, call 409-963-1107 extension 2, 3 or 4 and Bill, Paige or Joe will explain how easy it is to join.
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