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Special Report: New Hope For Lake Providence

Our report takes a look at how the people of Lake Providence, together with a church from Colorado -- are working together to bring new hope to the town.
LAKE PROVIDENCE -- For years, Lake Providence has appeared in reports as being on of the poorest town in America.

But the townspeople say they're not settling for that stigma.

Our report takes a look at how the people, together with a church from Colorado -- are working together bringing new hope to the town to change its course.

It's a crucial time for Lake Providence, a town of roughly 5,000 people in East Carroll Parish. The area has been labeled over the years as one of the poorest regions in the country.

"I think they mischaracterized us," said Lake Providence Mayor Bobby Amacker.

But if you take a closer look at what's happening in Lake Providence, you'll see some signs of hope and pride in their town.

"I would stand and say that Lake Providence is not the poorest town. I'm a person that I'm glad that i was born and reared in Lake Providence, Louisiana," said longtime resident, Cassandra Smith.

Many believe the change that's coming about in Lake Providence is for the better.

"It's named Providence for crying out loud," said local pastor Don Boyette. "It's the name of God."

It's just the getting there, that's a process.

"There can be a difference, and we can move beyond this," said lifetime resident Shellie Rushing Tomlinson. "I love this area...and I love my town, and I believe the best, is still ahead of us."

You see it in the national headlines.

"First of all....we need jobs," said Smith, who also goes by "Cookie."

She has lived in Lake Providence most of her life, 30 years of it spent with the police department until her health forced her to retire. She's watched her town change dramatically.

"Yes it has changed...We had a lot of stores downtown, now we only have a few," she said.

Mayor Amacker has lived there all his life, too -- born and raised. He remembers how things looked back in 1973.

"There were people everywhere. I mean you could hardly walk down main street on a Saturday night, it was just packed," he said. "We had a mass exodus here over the last 40 years."

Mayor Amacker says the exodus can be partly blamed on the evolving farming industry and technology changes eliminating jobs.

"Right now, you can take one tractor and a 12 row planter, and plant 250 acres a day. You used to not be able to do that," he said. "The whole thing has changed over that last 40 years and the change has been to eliminate the jobs. And I think that's why we've seen a lot of people leave here to go find work."

"Most of the young have to go out of town just to find them a good job," said Cookie.

But the pride and love for Lake Providence continues, despite the headlines.

"The resources of this city -- I know we can do great things. So I want to stay...I love this place," said Pastor Boyette.

Pastor Boyette, of Providence Church, says the national articles on the town are almost like a natural disaster, with food and money coming from places as far as Japan and Britain.

"Six months or a year later...We're right back down where we are," he said. "But man, I would much rather you teach me how to do it, or believe in me to do it."

Sometimes, help can come from the most surprising of places.

A church 1,000 miles away in Loveland, Colorado, aptly named Resurrection Fellowship, has chosen to adopt Lake Providence.

"I started talking to my church leaders, and people invested in the church...How would you feel about adopting a town you've never even heard of?" said senior Pastor Jonathan Wiggins of Resurrection Fellowship.

"Hundreds of volunteers ready to come down here to do whatever needs doing," said mayor Amacker.

And there's a deeper reason pastor Wiggins, taking this upon himself.

"They helped me grow up. Served to be examples to me," he said.

For Lake Providence, the seeds of optimism, are beginning to take root.

"I feel that there is already something happening," said Tomlinson. "And it's big."

Pastor Wiggins has a love for the community that spans decades, and he's coming back with his congregation to help. Find out his connection, and how the church plans on turning things around for Lake Providence, in part two of our series airing Monday night on KARD FOX 14 News at 9 and KTVE10 News at 10.
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