Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
Fellow Arkansans – neighbors, colleagues and friends – are sharing a light of peace, kindness and generosity that makes The Natural State a little brighter. Inviting Arkansas and Methodist Family Health celebrate individuals who illuminate our community with goodness. Nominate someone today for a future feature that SHINES.
Located in Perry County – just southwest of Petit Jean State Park – Casa is home to roughly 200 Arkansans. This small town is making big improvements through its devoted community. With the recent passing of Mayor Gary Rainey, the town is finitely focused on upholding the legacy of this beloved leader.
At the town’s request, Gary’s wife Loyra Rainey, who is also the local barber, will complete her husband’s term as mayor. She steadfastly admits, “I thought taking on running a town was too much to add to dealing with my grief. I was right. It is tough. On my weaker days, I think about his vision for the town and how he dreamed it would look. It gives me the strength to keep moving forward. One day at a time.”
Day after day, one day at a time, this town is honoring Gary’s vision. Loyra celebrates, “We will be planting an orchard in the small city park, so our residents can have access to fresh fruits and nuts. We received a grant to get the streets resurfaced. We are clearing areas to make green spaces in the town.” Beautification was important to Gary, but accessibility and usability were also priorities. “In January, we opened our senior center. We managed to get everything up and running with mostly all volunteer labor. It’s a place where our older residents can come in fellowship with one another, drink coffee and play games. We offer plate lunches for anyone who wishes to enjoy a meal with us.”
Casa resident Josie Payne is one of these volunteers focused on “making Casa the best small town in the state of Arkansas.” Josie explains, “I met my husband Dale and he wooed me into coming to his hometown, with the promise of fairer weather. I fell in love with the people here. After being here a short time, I decided I wanted to be involved more.”
Josie elaborates, “We have worked for the past two years to help clean up old houses, clear brush, clean out ditches and work to make the area safer than it was. We purchased several properties with dilapidated buildings that couldn’t be restored and removed them. We removed safety hazards and eyesores from the area.” As a result of their restoration, the city was just named a Tree-City USA community – a part of the Arbor Day Foundation.
Neither considers themselves philanthropists, but simply community members caring for their community. Loyra affirms, “I believe in helping people that need help. If that means going out in the middle of the night to help a resident who needs to have water shut off or on, I do it. If it means helping someone find a place to sleep for a night or two, I do it. It’s just the right thing to do.” Josie reiterates, “I enjoy creating opportunities for people to help themselves out of bad situations and I like giving back to the community that I call home. My hope is that they will just pay it forward and be more involved in their community and teach others how to care for their neighbors. The ripple always spreads outward.”
Sponsored by Methodist Family Health | Nominations accepted at Foundation@MethodistFamily.org
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