As a citizen of Kerrville, TX, and as Mayor, I am extremely proud to see both the objectives and the significant steps already taken by Hope for Health, an enthusiastic and wise effort sparked by The BUILD Health Challenge® (BUILD) opportunity. 

I have worked in the Doyle neighborhood for 20 years on different projects. The most lasting is the Doyle Community Center. After doing an Asset-Based Community Development survey 17 years ago, by and with residents, it was clear the residents wanted a place they could call their own for special events, continuing education, and now, health services. 

With funding from a local foundation, I arranged a purchase of what had been, until 1966, a segregated school for Black students. It was a joyous day in 2004 when we opened the doors to the Doyle Community Center. Now, it is busy with the work and workers of Hope for Health. 

Just as the Hope for Health team was getting started, the pandemic hit. The team went to work getting food for people in need, guiding people to the information they needed about COVID-19, and finding other ways to help the residents of that area. Although this was a change from what had been planned, it served to establish the organization in the neighborhood, and it built trust.  

As the pandemic has abated somewhat in Kerrville, the team members – under the able leadership of Katie Givens  have steadily set things in order so that the structure of Hope for Health is solid while they work daily with citizens from the neighborhood. 

I am delighted to see the staff that has been recruited for this strategic effort. They include a very popular retired teacher and coach who still lives in the neighborhood. One staff member grew up in the neighborhood and went on to a career with Child Protective Services in Dallas. Another key member grew up in the neighborhood and was the administrative assistant at the high school here. They are Black, Hispanic, and Anglo, reflecting the diversity of our town, and they have roots in this community. 

While health inequities are still being faced, there is hope for health: food scarcity has diminished, transportation options have increased, there is now a clinic room in the Doyle Community Center, isolation among residents is reduced, the stories of the cultures of the area are being heard and highlighted, medical homes are being established, health information is being distributed, and there are preparations for a wellness clinic a few weeks away. Moreover, the broader community has warmly received this organization and its objectives.

I have been reading BUILD’s “Community Approaches to Systemic Change: A Compendium of Practices, Reflections, and Findings.” This good overview of systemic change in BUILD communities serves as a challenge for Hope for Health – the steps to true transformation and taking a clear stand for justice require so much and such a disciplined focus. 

Do I think Hope for Health can do it? Absolutely. They have already planted the seeds of transformation, and they are seeing those seeds begin to sprout.

I thought about Hope for Health when recently I revisited a major study that has been done of poor neighborhoods across America and which ones produce children who go on to thrive. The study was done by the Census Bureau and Harvard University and looked at young adults now in their thirties. That study concluded that thriving was related to: 1) the number of years spent in a good neighborhood, 2) the environment within about half a mile of a child’s home, and 3) more employed adults and two parent families than other areas.  

Years down the road, I hope to see a stronger neighborhood that nurtures children and youth who, in turn, see and seize opportunities. And that strength is known to be based on the strengths they have experienced in their unique neighborhood. 

When the story of the Doyle neighborhood is told within few years and then years down the road, I believe the work and the relationships of Hope for Health will be a big part of that story. And neighbors will talk about more than the help received – they will talk about their excitement and fulfillment of realizing their power. 

Bill Blackburn 

Mayor of Kerrville, Texas 

September 22, 2020