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Inspired by a hymn, community leader Bessie Jackson lives for service

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — Bessie Jackson recalls how, as a young girl, one of her father’s favorite tunes not only kindled her love of singing spiritual hymns but her commitment to community service.“My daddy used to sing this song at night, ‘If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living won’t be in vain,’” she said. “Don’t leave nothing the way you found it. Always leave it better.”

Jackson, 70, said the song and her faith have motivated her to put family and the needs of others above herself.

She is the president of Mission Outreach, a nonprofit organization that serves those in need in Marble Falls for the past 27 years.

As a result of her most recent community efforts connected to Mission Outreach, Jackson was honored in March as the 2012 Outstanding Citizen by the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce.

FEEDING THE NEEDY

Her efforts in fundraising, coordination and organization connected to a new fellowship hall project for the program culminated in the recent groundbreaking of the project, adjacent to St. Frederick’s Baptist Church, 301 Ave. N, in March. Jackson is the church administrator.

The hall will serve as the new location for the program that feeds as many as 900 people during its Thanksgiving event. On Saturdays, Jackson and area-wide church volunteers also serve meals, reaching out to the St. Frederick’s congregation as well as the flock from First United Methodist Church, Fellowship Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, all in Marble Falls. Her husband, Henry, cooks the meals.

“My love of the Lord says that my special gift is servant. That’s all I know how to do. I’m happy when I’m serving,” she said. “It’s rewarding to see those people who come to the church and need help. We’ll do what’s necessary to make it happen.”

FAMILY ROOTS

Originally from Dallas, she moved to Marble Falls in the 1980s, joining the church and working for Marble Falls Independent School District.

She raised three girls and two boys. Her daughter Beverly, 49, is a recent medical technology graduate; Becky, 46, is an employer consultant who has written three books and works with clients across the country; and her daughter Renee, 43, is a special needs paraprofessional at MFISD.

Jackson’s late sons, Berry, 41, and Bryan, 42, died from health-related issues. Jackson has eight grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

In her early career, she worked as an administrative assistant for a school administrator, eventually becoming a teacher’s aide for the Marble Falls High School resource program.

She said as an aide for the school district, she perceived disparities in discipline, treatment and opportunities for economically disadvantaged students.

“I raised several ruckuses, and I decided to get into (politics),” she said of her foray into public office and the school board that began in 1984. “There was so many different injustices. Things were still the status quo.”

Jackson campaigned for guidelines in extracurricular activities that are based in academic achievement and good behavior. Subsequently, she was elected for two more terms for a total of seven years on the school board.

LEAVE NOTHING UNDONE

Jackson moved to Granite Shoals around 2000. By then, she had switched careers to become a pharmacy technician. A community member inspired her to serve an unexpired vacant term on Granite Shoals City Council, run for the seat and eventually serve as an elected member.

“It was super-interesting. I saw the potential of Granite Shoals far beyond what it could be capable of doing,” she said. “The Dollar General came in, and the tax revenue almost tripled in one year.” She reached her term limit in May 2012.

Jackson currently works for the T.Q. Brown Community Center, based in Marble Falls, as a senior adviser for the AARP program.

“I get up. I come to work. I love what I do,” she said. “It’s such a rewarding thing.”

She and her husband recently adopted 5-year-old L.D.

“There is not a quiet moment in the house,” she said. “God put him in my lap.

“Family is the most important thing in my life. I’m a firm believer you leave nothing undone,” she added. “You can do anything you set your mind to. With God being your leader, there’s nothing to stop you.”

Jackson said she uses a single guiding principle, whether she deals with friends, family, business associates or those in need.

“Follow you’re heart. Depression comes down when you do nothing, especially if you sit in the dark,” she said. “Whatever it is that makes the light burn in your eyes, your heart throb, I think you ought to do it, and serving is especially the best thing ever.”

connie@thepicayune.com