The Worthy Ones

HEALTH | FITNESS
2017
September/October

The heat in Tyler can be brutal even in the fall, but especially in the scorching summer. While most are driving around with air conditioner and cold water on their way to and from work each day, there are still many in the area without the luxury of private transportation. Nora Schreiber, a 31-year-old graduate art student at the University of Texas at Tyler is making a difference every summer by doing one simple act – giving her community members who take public transportation ice-cold water. 

Schreiber started the non-profit called The Worthy Ones three years ago when she began to put water bottles in coolers full of ice at bus stations around Tyler. Since then, The Worthy Ones has grown to include many other projects involving the community. 

“For years I’ve just loved giving back,” Schreiber said. “Then I took it upon myself a few years ago as my New Year’s resolution that I was going to do something every month to give back to the community. In doing that I developed things like putting water at bus stops.”Every summer Schreiber tries to fill the need at ten additional stops. This is the third year, so the project has grown to thirty stops with coolers full of cold water bottles for the bus riders. This summer the non-profit put out 4,000 bottles of water for the community.  Individuals or businesses in the area donate the coolers. This year, Northeast Texas (NET) Public Health donated the coolers, and a few left over from last year were used and donated by Morrison Supply Company. Hope Springs Water donated all of the water bottles for the project. 

Schreiber goes through town once a week and resupplies the water bottles and ice. It takes her about four consecutive hours, but this year she implemented a new idea, where businesses or individuals can adopt a bus stop. Whoever adopts a bus stop will be in control of that one stop only and can go by a few times a week restocking everything. This summer ten stops were adopted.

“I also have volunteers who will take over the route for me and they’ll go out and pass out the water,” Schreiber said. “I mostly decide which coolers get how many bottles and I watch the traffic to see how many people go to those stops. We fill it to the need, so (the busier stops) I will give entire cases to because a lot of people use them.”

Once someone signs up to volunteer or adopt a stop, Schreiber will take them through the process the first time so that they know where they can pick up the ice and water from. She said occasionally the coolers are stolen, but it isn’t disheartening because so many more are good, genuine people benefitting from her mission on a daily basis. 

“We average that about 5 percent of the coolers are stolen every year,” Schreiber said. “That’s pretty low, so I’m happy with that. The best thing is I get to meet all of these people I would never get to meet otherwise.”

Schreiber believes that practicing empathy and kindness is important in any community and while interacting with others in general. She enjoys working with her volunteers, who often gain a lot of insight through the projects that they help with.

“I’ve had a lot of people and volunteers, who have become aware of the project, come up to me and say, ‘You know, I hadn’t realized that we had so many bus stops and I never really noticed that there were people waiting at them,’” Schreiber said. “I think it has been a really great thing for people to look at their neighbors and practice some empathy for them.”

Schreiber loves being able to help the community she grew up in. For her birthday she asked her friends and family to bring items that could be donated to local charities in lieu of gifts. Schreiber put out a flyer asking for feminine hygiene products that she could donate to People Attempting to Help (PATH) in Tyler, which is a flexible organization that changes to focus on the needs of the community as the community changes as well. 

“PATH gets a lot of food donations and not so many diapers and things like that,” Schreiber said. “So I really wanted to focus the majority of the feminine product donations going there.” Schreiber held her birthday party at Stanley’s Famous Barbecue, where she works. After seeing the charitable birthday and all that Schreiber does for the community of Tyler, Stanley’s owners, Nick and Jen Pencis, asked Schreiber if she had ever considered opening up a non-profit. 

“I said, ‘Well yes, I have, but I’m not sure how to go about it,’” Schreiber said. “So they totally set me up. They got me a lawyer and we got set up as a non-profit and now I’m able to do bigger and better things for the community.”

One thing that the non-profit features is a “Good Birthday Party.”  Those who would like to set up a birthday party through The Worthy Ones and have their guests give charitable donations to the non-profit can find information on the website, theworthyones.com A “Good Birthday Party” donated to the non-profit gets a photo booth set up by Schreiber and her photographer, a custom-made flyer so that guest know to bring donations in lieu of gifts, as well as the professional photos edited and posted online. 

Schreiber also has a project that involves cleaning up and taking care of someone’s yard who is unable to do so, particularly the elderly
or disabled. 

“If someone is unable to keep their yard up to code then we will set up a group of volunteers to help out,” Schreiber said. “Living in the city, I just look around and if I notice there is a need, then I try to get that taken care of for them.”

Schreiber came up with the name “The Worthy Ones” after working on an art project installation at Rose Rudman Park. The installation was about how people build first impressions of others. Schreiber took photographs of people from all walks of life.

After talking with them and getting to know them, she put a label across the photograph – one word describing the person. She met one man during the project and labeled him “worthy.” “I thought this is such a great thing to tell people, that you are worthy,” Schreiber said. 

Schreiber’s art is often about empathy and kindness. A recent art installation she has been working on incorporates helping those at the bus stops. Schreiber places chairs at the stops that have no seating and puts positive words on them like “respect” or “found.” Hogg Middle School in Tyler helped Schreiber by picking out the words to be included on the chairs. 

Moving forward, Schreiber hopes that The Worthy Ones will continue to grow and that the community of Tyler will continue to look out for one another. 

“Tyler is really giving and I hope that as we grow, we are bound together and there is not a separatism going forward,” Schreiber said. “I’d like this to get bigger and move across the state and possibly the nation. Then eventually I’d like to conquer the world.”

Schreiber invites anyone who sees a need in the community to reach out to her. She is always looking for new ways to help her neighbors. 

“I would love to meet people,” Schreiber said. “If they see a need, I would love to hear it. I think it is really worth it and I am really supremely grateful.”

 

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