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— When George H.W. Bush accepted the 1988 Republican nomination for president, he spoke of “a thousand points of light” and what they would do in communities across the nation.

The beacons he envisioned were local volunteers who recognize needs in their communities and go about doing what is takes to meet those needs.

When we read the account of the speaker at a recent Camden Lions Club meeting, it brought to mind the late President Bush the Elder’s “thousand points of light.”

Because we have such points of light in Camden and an outstanding example is the E.B. Williams Youth Center.

The man behind the youth center, its founder, Eric Gunter, recently spoke to the Camden Lions Club about the organization and its role in assisting the youth of Ouachita County.

Gunter spoke of the inspiration for the center, which can be found in the statement on its Facebook site: “The mission of the E.B. Williams Youth Center is to create and maintain a clean, safe and secure environment with comprehensive and innovative summer and after school programs, physical and social activities as well as a recreation center for the Camden and surrounding areas youth. Our goal is to provide a wholesome environment for disadvantaged youth to counteract the influence of drugs in the community. Our program will also challenge the youth to envision and navigate a course for a rewarding future characterized by achievement, independent thought and social responsibility through education, mentoring and tutoring. Our staff interacts with each youth in a firm, fair, compassionate and consistent manner while treating them with respect, dignity and holding them to high expectations and standards. In addition, we will maintain the highest standard of professional ethics, personal integrity and overall excellence in the care of the young people we serve.”

We cannot think of better or more worthy goals for volunteers to have than offering the best possible opportunities for the youth of our community.

As described by Gunter, the center focuses on mentoring and tutoring of area youth, empowering them with the tools to become active and productive citizens. The center also provides annual book scholarships to six local high school seniors, annual distribution of back pack and school supplies, taking area youth on summer field trips to Little Rock’s museums, visiting with the elderly in the local nursing homes, assisting in Camden’s Keep Camden Beautiful Adopt-a-Street Program and participating and hosting in various other community programs and projects.

The young people of the group take an active role in sustaining the organization and its activities. The center is primarily funded through its “Kidz Runnin’ The Show” Corvette car show. They do, as Gunter pointed out, run the show, an activity he said is intended to help young people build leadership skills, enhance critical thinking and instill confidence.

All proceeds benefit the EBWYC’s “Gift of Progression” program. The program traditionally provides money for the scholarships , and book bags with school supplies for area kids. The value the kids realize from the organization is evidenced in many who age out of the program staying on to be youth mentors.

We salute Gunter and his creation, and we acknowledge that the organization is not the only point of light in our community. We plan, from time to time, to also bring them to your attention.

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