The Gentle Giant Meets All-Mart

Ivan Arceneaux. The Galveston Daily News. October 2, 2006

The birth of the Galveston Community Network is one good thing that rose out of the twin 2005 hurricanes, Katrina and Rita.

Under the leadership of Irma Fortuno of the Red Cross, representatives from the many service organizations assisting the evacuees met daily to coordinate their efforts to better serve those at Galveston’s temporary shelter.

Afterward, everyone wisely agreed to meet monthly on every third Thursday to continue coordinating efforts to serve the regular residents of Galveston County. These meetings have proven most successful in serving the aging population.

The December meeting featured an update on the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan by Penny Davis (University of Texas Medical Branch Senior Services), plus a status report on the county’s enrollment of senior citizens in Part D. Out of that, an enrollment day in April resulted in a record 99 percent of the 27,487 Galveston seniors eventually signing on. (Statistic by Navella Cole in Congressman Ron Paul’s office.)

Throughout 2006, Galveston Community Network’s committees continually functioned at top speed. At the September meeting, Dr. Ben Raimer, vice president for community outreach, gave a PowerPoint presentation, Steps to the Future Recent Changes at UTMB, that everyone should see.

The grandparents committee, chaired by Mark Davis (Gleanings From The Harvest) and Steve McIntyre (Lone Star Legal Services), launched a comprehensive assistance plan for 2007 called the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program.

Davis, truly a Gentle Giant (an appropriate nickname conferred on him by Rita Guidry of Hometown Bank), shared his idea for a one-stop center to serve Galveston’s needy.

From a Chamber of Commerce perspective, Davis’ ideas makes sense when you consider the savings in overhead for rent, utilities and others, if all social service agencies could be housed in one place.

My take is that the Gentle Giant was thinking as much about making it easier on those in need of a one-stop service location.

Davis suggested two possible locations, the Island Community Center (4700 block of Broadway) or the now vacant police substation (53rd Street and Avenue S).

Everyone who has ever worked with the elderly and needy has dreamed similarly. I once proposed an All-Mart for seniors. Perhaps it is premature for Catholic Charities, The Jesse Tree, St. Vincents House, and all the other social service agencies to give up their current space. Perhaps satellite offices in the same location would serve the purpose.

I propose to make the Gentle Giants idea an agenda item for the October meeting.

I’ve learned that two heads are always better than one and that if 60 or more representatives look at the current utilization of space and delivery of service in Galveston, everyone will be better served.

Please read Jeremiah 29:7: Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you… and bring your ideas on how to best serve the elderly, the poor and the otherwise needy residents of the county to Moody First United Methodist Church from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 19 in Galveston.

Ivan Arceneaux is a Galveston County senior citizen activist. He can be reached at