Juanita Blevins of Manila was surprised to be recognized at the Oct. 23 National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) held in Pocahontas.
"I was surprised and touched when I realized I was being honored with a retirement party by my peers," Blevins said. "Through the years I have made a lot of good friends. The two things I will miss most are the residents and my peers at neighboring housing authorities."
Blevins said she received many blessings from her job. She remembers well when she began her career. At her first meeting, the new Housing Authority Project was approved.
"Working together with commissioners, staff, and great maintenance people, we have seen great improvements through the years. Manila has something to be proud of in its Housing Authority. It is rated as one of the best in Arkansas."
Barbara Suber, Monette Housing Authority executive director and president of Arkansas Chapter NAHRO, presented Blevins with a plaque in recognition for her years of service.
In her introduction speech, Suber compared her to a "master gardener."
"Many times, people pass quietly and fearfully through life without doing anything to make the world a better place," Suber said. "That is not true with Juanita.
"Now that we are in the midst of harvest time, I look at Juanita and I think of her years of service at the Manila Housing Authority...she has truly been a 'master gardener' for the past 26 years. She has spent much of her time planting encouragement all along the way in the lives of others and now it is time for her to reap the harvest in her own life.
"She had a planting schedule that she used to attain her goals at the housing authority and it consisted of the following:
first she would plant four rows of "peas"...presence, promptness, preparation and perseverance. She was always present, prompt, prepared, and she perservered to the end. Next, she planted four rows of "lettuce"...she would say: "Let us adhere to rules and ethics, let us be true to obligations, let us be faithful to our duties, let us be loyal and unselfish; then she planted her three rows of "squash"...she squashed indifference, squashed laziness, and she squashed criticism, and finally, she completed her garden with three rows of "turnips." You could count on her to turn up for meetings, events, and obligations, turn up with a smile, and turn up with determination to get the job done."
Suber continued saying she put her whole heart and soul into the job.
"I think you could say she has been a pioneer. She worked to pave the way for others and has already paid the price for the generations to follow. There is really no way to measure the many lives she has touched or the many positive contributions she has made to her community through her years of service at the Manila Housing Authority."
Suber personally wished her well in her retirement.
Several others attending shared memories and offered well wishes to Blevins for her dedicated service.
Blevins said she worked with the new director, Janiece Flannigan, for a week.
"I think she will do a great job," Blevins said.