In support of its mission to build a thriving Deep East Texas and to alleviate poverty, the foundation makes grants in the areas of education, economic development and community revitalization, health, human services, arts and culture, and conservation and the environment. Central to the foundation’s work is the aim of breaking the cycle of poverty, and the foundation prioritizes support for residents and communities that most lack access to opportunities they need to succeed.
America’s Health Rankings, an independent health measure that combines more than 30 health-related metrics, ranks Texas 34th out of 50 states in resident health. Texans show comparatively high rates of obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes. Disparities in health status–by race and ethnicity, geography and income–are also higher in Texas than in many states: Texas ranks 44th in the prevalence of health disparities in the nation.
Access to health care providers is also a challenge in Texas, particularly in rural areas of the state. This is partly a function of insurance coverage. According to the U.S. Census, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation: in 2016, 17.1% of Texas residents do not have health insurance coverage, compared to 9.4% nationally. It ranks second in lack of health insurance coverage for children: 9.5% of children in Texas have no health insurance, compared to 4.8% nationally. In our region, insured rates are even lower: in 2014, 21.3% of residents had no health insurance coverage, compared to 19.1% for the state in 2014.
Given these challenges, our goal is simple: to improve the health of residents of Deep East Texas. The barriers of poverty, geographic isolation, and a lack of access to health care services make it particularly difficult for many residents in our region to improve and maintain their health. Yet poor health status often limits residents’ ability to get a high quality education, hold down a sustaining job, and stay out of poverty.
The T.L.L. Temple Foundation has played an instrumental role in making sure that residents have access to health care when they need it–at home and in major centers of expertise. We remain committed to ensuring that all residents of Deep East Texas—particularly the underserved and uninsured—have access to quality health care services. Recognizing that health is influenced by environmental and social circumstances as well as the care people receive, we also support efforts in prevention and wellness designed to reduce the need for health care services.
Educational attainment is a significant challenge in our region. Based on U.S. Census data, Texas ranks 49th out of the 50 states for having the lowest percentage of adults with a high school diploma, with 18.5% of people 25 and older not having earned a high school degree or equivalent. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board the problem is even more pronounced in our region. In the most recent 8th grade cohort available, there were 24,639 students in upper and southeast Texas counties we serve. Five years later, only 72.0% completed high school, meaning that almost 7,000 young people did not complete the most basic education.
The counties in our region lag even further behind when it comes to college completion: according to the U.S. Census’s 2015 American Community Survey, only 14.0% of people 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 27.1% in Texas and 29.3% nationally. This is particularly problematic considering that many of the region’s fastest growing occupations require at least an associate’s degree, if not a four-year degree.
Education has always been a top priority for the T.L.L. Temple Foundation because it is the most effective tool to break the cycle of poverty and build a thriving region. Addressing the region’s low rates of educational attainment—particularly for low-income students—is critical to improving outcomes in poverty, health and economic development. We aim to increase access to high quality educational opportunities for residents in Deep East Texas. We invest in programs that measurably improve education outcomes in the region, including: early childhood education, out-of-school-time programs, and programs dedicated to increasing postsecondary preparation, access and success. We also support efforts to ensure that Deep East Texans have the skills needed to obtain and retain high quality jobs.
The 24 counties in our service region have very high rates of unemployment: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016, 52.9% of the population 16 and older was in the labor force, compared to 64.4% in Texas and 63.5% nationally. In the Deep East Texas Workforce Development Area, the unemployment rate was 7% in 2016. While this decreased from 10% in 2011, it is significantly higher than the state unemployment rate of 4.7% and the national unemployment rate of 4.9% during the same period.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, between 2012 and 2022, jobs are expected to increase by 13.1% in the Deep East Texas Workforce Development Area, compared to 21.3% for Texas, and 10.8% for the U.S. The fastest growing occupations correspond to the region’s aging population: home health and personal care aides, nursing, medical secretaries, and medical assistants. Most of these jobs require a two or four-year degree.
We aim to improve economic opportunities and help develop and sustain thriving communities in the most economically challenged places in our service area. Vibrant communities and a robust regional economy are central to creating and sustaining a thriving Deep East Texas. We invest in efforts to transform disinvested communities into places with economic opportunities and equitable access to the essential community resources needed to help families thrive. Impact Lufkin, a foundation-initiated program, is an example of the foundation’s approach to holistic, resident-engaged community revitalization. Because engaged citizens are central to fostering strong communities, we also fund programs to increase civic participation. Finally, we invest in programs that strengthen the regional economy and improve economic opportunities for residents of Deep East Texas.
Too many residents of Deep East Texas live in poverty. According to the U.S. Census, in 2015 in the 24 counties that we serve, 19.3% of residents live in poverty, compared to 15.9% of Texans and 13.5% of people in the U.S. The median household income (2010-2014) is 21% lower than the state of Texas, and 22% lower than the U.S. For these residents, poverty can become a vicious cycle, limiting access to the quality education, self-sustaining employment, and health care needed to rise above poverty.
The foundation works to ensure the most vulnerable residents in our service region have their basic needs met. By helping provide access to food, shelter, social services and other programs, we strive to make sure that there is a strong safety net to support the region’s low-income and vulnerable residents.
Arts and culture are critical for healthy communities and a thriving region. The foundation has long supported efforts to celebrate the region’s cultural heritage and document its important history. We will continue to help enrich the lives of Deep East Texans by investing in programs that provide access to artistic and cultural experiences.
Beginning with the first timber harvested in the second half of the nineteenth century, the Temple family has had a special bond with the forests, wetlands, and open spaces across our region. We believe that the health of our natural environment is closely connected to the health of our residents, our communities, and our region and so seek to protect our important natural resources.
The primary emphasis of the foundation’s conservation and environmental efforts is the Boggy Slough Conservation Area, a Temple Foundation-managed program. The aim of the Boggy Slough Conservation Area is to 1) serve as a model for conservation and land management; 2) serve as a catalyst for creating a stewardship ethic and connection to nature in our communities; and 3) bridge critical research gaps regarding the forest and bottomland ecosystems of the Neches River basin and the Southeast.