In response to Mr. May’s well written letter, “Failed school bond is a shame.”

After reading Mr. May’s letter in the Thursday, Sept. 17 paper, I felt surprisingly little emotion. He expressed many of the sentiments that I have often felt. I grew up in Odell and after leaving here to get medical training, I returned 8 years later to work and raise my family. I brought one of those “exotic foreigners” (my husband, Patrick) with me and he has described to me what Mr. May described as “being an attraction at the zoo.”

I have asked myself more than once, why did I come back here? Historically, the answer has been, “this is where I’m from.” My children are the sixth generation to reside in Gage County and they are fortunate to be able to grow up near their grandparents and go to school with children of my old school mates.

There are some details that Mr. May left out, however, regarding the struggles that we face in this community. According to the website www.countyhealthrankings.org, Gage County ranks 76th out of 78 measured counties in the state for health behaviors and quality of life. We have one of the highest rates of obesity in the state (almost 39 percent), higher than average numbers of days of poor mental and physical health, higher than average rates of smoking, binge drinking and alcohol related deaths and physical inactivity. The list, unfortunately, goes on. The reality is that poor physical health and poor economic health go hand in hand.

Beatrice stands at a precipice. We still have a choice. We can still save our community from the continued, and potentially irreversible, decline that faces us if we do nothing.

I can certainly not fault Mr. May for leaving to find a place with more opportunities. That very thought has crossed my own mind but my reason for why I stay has changed from, “this is where I’m from” to “this place needs me.” I’m not saying I can or will save Beatrice singlehandedly. What I’m saying is that if the people that call this place home don’t stick it out and work hard to change things, then who else will? No one.

That being said, there are leaders in this community that are trying to work together to get things done, so I want to give some hope. The leaders at the Beatrice Community Hospital are working on initiatives to improve the health of our workers using the Complete Health Improvement Program, or CHIP.

We are also actively fundraising for the Blue Zones Project, which is a comprehensive community project to improve both the physical and economic health of the community. The Beatrice area artists are in the process of organizing to bring more art and culture events to all the people of the area.

There are still leaders here willing to put in the time and effort to save something that is worth saving. What we need now and will always need are people willing to commit some of their resources to build a better place. This is our community and no one is going to do this for us.

Words that I always remember and that have proven true over and over: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -- Margaret Mead

Amanda McKinney, Beatrice

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