Weekly Columns

Arkansans are unfortunately familiar with the devastating impacts of tornadoes. I’ve seen the damage left in their powerful wake and talked with homeowners, businesses and local leaders about the challenges they face in getting things back to normal. In the face of these trials, I have also seen the resolve of citizens determined to rebuild and the care of those who offer hope through words and deeds to friends and neighbors experiencing some of the greatest hardships of their lives.  

Natural State residents have a long and proud history of opening their hearts to help others. Support thrives in our communities beyond the aftermath of a natural disaster.

I’ve met with people from all corners of the state who have answered the call to serve, making connections and tapping into the resources and knowledge of others who have the same desire.

I’m constantly inspired by Arkansans who are identifying problems, rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on real, innovative solutions. These problem solvers are working in communities across the state alongside elected officials and civic groups like boys and girls in scouting as well as veteran service organizations. And these efforts are noticed.  

Across the state, communities have built a solid foundation to inspire and grow a passion for service and giving back to others. Thanks to the encouragement of organizations like EngageAR, which aims to empower service and volunteerism at the municipal level, these communities can continue to spread kindness in our state’s time of need.  

I was proud to recently recognize the newest recipients of EngageAR’s Community of the Year Award; Osceola, Vilonia, Maumelle, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs, North Little Rock and West Memphis. They have demonstrated the value of civic engagement through efforts like citywide cleanups, training volunteer firefighters, cultivating gardens to feed the food insecure and expanding foodbank operations.

Volunteering gives people the opportunity to put their talents to use on behalf of others. It’s a powerful and rewarding experience and the involvement of citizens in these communities has made a positive impact.

As Arkansas Municipal League Executive Director Hayes says – local people solve local problems best. 

For instance, the Disabled American Veterans chapter in Mountain Home recognized the need to take action to reduce and prevent veteran suicides. Its members launched an outreach program to connect with veterans who are outside of the VA system – and it worked. There was a significant decrease in veteran suicides.  

In order to build on this success and the positive results of other veteran-serving non-profits and community networks, I authored the IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act to create a grant program to leverage these efforts so we can help bridge the gap existing in VA outreach. 

This new strategy harnesses the ideas of community advocates into sound policy so they can continue the great work they’re already doing.

I’m proud Congress passed this legislation and we’re working with the VA right now to ensure it’s implemented as we intended. 

One of the things I learned early on as a Member of Congress that has continued to serve as inspiration for my work in Washington, is that you can get a lot accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit. That’s the same mentality I’ve seen across our state as communities do what they always do in times of need: bring people together to achieve what can’t be done individually. 

There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing Arkansans from all walks of life who share the same goal – helping their neighbors. I encourage all Arkansans to stay true to the spirit of service and selflessness that helps make us all better.