SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - Why would representatives from four federal social service agencies fly all the way from Washington, D.C. for a one day meeting in San Augustine? It all started with a county judge wanting to see change in her rural community.
San Augustine County Judge Samye Johnson spoke of a venture to the backwoods of San Augustine County. She met a very poor woman in desperate need of her medicines. Johnson came to her aid but has since learned that it's impossible to individually help all the others.
"We have a lot of elderly who live in our county," Johnson said. "Many of them have worked hard all their lives. They've never been plugged in to a social service network before and they're out in the woods starving to death."
This room is filled with the people whose job it is to help. Johnson brought them together for a social needs summit.
"How can we get services that are here and that are very good to our people, and what services do they need that we don't know about?" Johnson said.
Johnson's persistence in finding answers helped get representatives from four federal social service agencies and two state agencies to the summit.
"It wasn't an easy meeting to get to, but to commit that kind of resources to this kind of summit today is very unique," Kevin Monroe, a representative for X Factor Consulting who flew in to attend the meeting, said.
A survey conducted by the SFA Social Work Department of at least 2,000 San Augustine County residents will create a starting point for change.
Dr. Emmerentie Oliphant, who heads the SFA School of Social Work's master's program, said explained what the survey is all about.
"It's just such as the struggles people are experiencing and the strengths they are experiencing," Oliphant said.
The Columbia Center will provide mapping, so no isolated cluster of need will be missed.
"Creating an innovative solution is a great opportunity and I compliment the judge for getting out there," Dr. Darrell McDonald said. "She's a very compassionate woman."
Bureaucratic ways are difficult to change. But this petite county judge from rural East Texas is willing to try.