It has been said that in life there are the talkers and then there are the doers.
Betty Jefferson is one of those rare individuals who excels in both categories.
“You know I can talk,” she said, with a wink and a nod of the head. “But as long as there is breath in my body, I believe that it is incumbent on all of us to make this world a better place.
“We see the needs. We see the shortfalls. We can sit back and complain and hope that someone else will come along and make things happen, or we can use the voice and the energy that God gave us and make things happen for ourselves,” she said. “Anybody that knows me knows that I’m not one to sit back. God put us here to do his work and as long as I can lift my body out of bed in the morning that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Once again, Jefferson is leading the charge for action.
On Tuesday, May 22, Jefferson is helping coordinate a community meeting she hopes will serve as the catalyst for the East Side Community Involvement Project.
“This is open for the entire Waxahachie community, you don’t have to live on the East Side to be a part of this because we want everyone’s involvement,” she said. “Really, this is about the entire community because there are needs in every part of the city.
“What we’re hoping to do is get as many members of the community together as possible and discuss some of the problems, brainstorm for solutions and I hope, lay the ground work for making some things happen.
“We’ve invited officials from the city and school district who, in addition to answering questions, can provide us with insight on what is feasible and what isn’t,” she said.
While Jefferson said all ideas will be open for discussion, one topic that will be brought forth is the former Oak Lawn Community Center on Getzendaner Ave.
“The concept for a community center on that site was a good idea,” she said. “I have to believe there’s a way we can make that work. I don’t know how. I don’t have the answers. But if we get a group of concerned citizens together and put our heads together, I have to believe that we can come up with some ideas on how to make it work.
“Maybe we can create a public-private partnership that has the involvement and participation of several organizations. I don’t know, but I feel that God has moved me to go out and try.
“A community center that would provide the resources it was initially conceived to provide — afterschool tutoring, adult continuing education classes, recreation services, etc. — would have such a huge impact on that side of town.
“We need to do something on that site,” she said, referring the plat of land that once housed Oak Lawn School and is owned by the Waxahachie ISD.
“If nothing else, we need to find a way to turn it into a park. The residents don’t want it to be an eyesore. They don’t want it to be a vacant lot for loitering and criminal activity.
“Let’s do something positive,” she stressed.
For years, Jefferson has played an active role in the community.
Compassionate, caring and at times outspoken, she has never been one to shy away from a challenge — especially if she feels the greater good of the community hangs in the balance.
In addition to serving as the president for the Waxahachie Chapter of the NAACP, she also serves on the Waxahachie Planning and Zoning Commission.
“I’ve been known to ruffle some feathers,” she said, making no excuses for calling people to task when she feels their actions — or lack there of — warranted criticism.
“But this isn’t about pointing fingers,” Jefferson said. “We can sit back and point fingers from now until Judgment Day and it isn’t going to change a thing.
“This is about putting our heads together as a community, identifying needs, discussing ways to address those needs, set some goals and then going out and making them happen.
“I can’t change the past. None of us can. But we can shape the future,” Jefferson said. “With inspiration and motivation, we can make great things happen — in every community in the city.”
Leaning forward in her chair, Jefferson looks down at her hands. She recalls the past movements when the community came together calling for solutions to rampant crime and lack of infrastructure on the East Side.
Name after name, she lists residents who not only took a stand but volunteered their time and energy to improve their neighborhood.
Working with the city, community policing programs were implemented and through those programs, the crime rate dropped during the late 1990s. Street and sidewalk improvements have been made, although infrastructure disparities still remain.
As an appointed member of the city’s planning & zoning commission, Jefferson is well aware of the limitations of municipal budgets funded by the taxpayers.
Acknowledging the government can’t solve everyone’s problems, she lifts her head and pauses before speaking.
“We can’t expect the government to do it all. But it can help,” she said, adding that by collaborating with business and various non-profit organizations, a synergy can be created that partners with the city and school district to provide resources and/or volunteers for programs that have a limited impact on the tax base. “We, as citizens, have to play an active role in that process. When we work together, anything is possible. We can sit back and wait, or we can do something about it. Let’s be doers.”
The community forum is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at the Graham Street Church of Christ, 304 Graham St. The meeting, open to the community, will be held in conjunction with the monthly meeting of the Waxahachie chapter of the NAACP.