Piney Woods Leos Learn Life Lessons While Helping Others

Above photo: Piney Woods Leos help set up and get ready for the Hispanic Heritage Festival in Davy Crockett Park. 

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY –   You have seen them at all kinds of local events, cleaning the streets or helping to pass out food at local food banks – the Piney Woods Lions is a group made up of about 60 kids who assist the Lions Club to help their community and learn some valuable lessons along the way. 

The group meets at Crockett Methodist Church and is always looking for kids who want to make friends, have some fun and give back to the people around them at the same time. 

Piney Woods Leo President Mayra Martinez joined two years ago after one of her friends talked her into trying it out. Last year, she went to her first Lions Camp in Kerrville. 

“The first task we had was cleaning up a pathway where people walk and we helped pick up sticks as well as sweep and clean so it would be accessible to everyone,” Martinez said. “At the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler, I took away that there’s a lot that we can do, even outside of our community as well as going and helping other counties of around East Texas.”

Martinez, a senior at Crockett High, stays busy doing cheer, Spanish Club, FFA and National Honor Society. The Leos definitely attract overachievers; young people who put the ideas of making a better world to practice in their daily lives. 

Ellen Brooks, the Leos Club Advisor, acknowledges many of the young people in the group are the type who always stay busy doing something. 

“I get the busy kids – and it’s something parents are always concerned about. ‘Will they have time?’ I always tell them there’s no commitment to the club. You do what you can based on your schedule,” Brooks explained. “Like anything, the more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it. They find time to volunteer and that was one of the goals – to make it fun. It can be fun and it can be very rewarding.”

Piney Woods Leos having fun at a recent meeting.

Leos Secretary Annabelle Sibley didn’t exactly volunteer for the club in the very beginning. 

“Margaret Tuggle convinced me it would be a good idea and drug me to one of the meetings and I got inducted into Leos the same day,” Sibley said. “I started making friends and it was really fun and we help our community.”

Sibley, who is homeschooled, has been in the group a year now. A sophomore, Sibley loves math and science and hope to go into the medical field after high school. 

Brooks can always tell when a kid has been forced to come to a meeting and always gives them the same advice. 

“‘I give you six weeks or less. You’re going to be wanting to come,’” Brooks advises the newbies. “It usually doesn’t even take six weeks once they start meeting the kids and get involved.”

Martinez agreed, saying it’s not only fun, but something she finds personally rewarding. 

“Something that keeps me going is knowing that I’m helping in my community as well as giving the time that I can give and helping people that need help,” Martinez said. 

Brooks keeps a complicated schedule to keep up with everything the Leos do. From cleaning along the Crockett 304 Loop, assisting at the local food distribution, as well as helping at events for the local Chamber of Commerce, the electric co-op and Houston County. 

Sibley offered advice for young people thinking about getting involved. 

“Meet the people,” Sibley said. “Once you meet the people, it goes on from there and the activities are global. And you know you’re doing something good for the community.”

You can find the Piney Woods Leos on social media or by contacting Ellen Brooks at 936-222-6286.

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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