CORINTH, Miss. (WTVA) -- It’s often said that a community reflects those who live there.
For Lighthouse Foundation director Gary Caveness, that resonates even more because of what he says they’ve been able to accomplish.
"We began taking 110 kids fishing to a lake and creek bank," Caveness said. "66 kids caught fish for the first time that day. I can remember one of the volunteers saying they can bring the church vans and transportation here, but how are they gonna get the kids? I said, 'Fella, it's not hard to get kids to go fishing.'"
Now Caveness and his volunteers serve as fishers of young teens, helping them reach their full potential.
That's why he and others started this effort nearly 20 years ago.
"I think our budget that first half year was about $10,000," Caveness said. "Now our budget has grown tremendously and we affect thousands of kids every year."
The organization is non-denominational by design, which actually made it more difficult to get off the ground in the early years.
"We had this vision of what we wanted to do, but we really didn't have a large organization or structure behind us. Those beginning days, as it is for all non-profits, and I'm sure churches, are difficult," Caveness said.
However, they did move forward, from providing Christmas presents for 70 kids in 1995 to more than 2,000 last year.
And that’s not all: leadership programs, GED classes and even gardening workshops aim to give Corinth kids a sense of purpose, a drive to be more than they already are.
"The community has bought into it. It's so worthwhile when you see someone who comes from an environment that would not promote that kind of success, and they grab hold of life and go somewhere with it," Caveness said. "It's so satisfying."
Markenna Edgeston was one of those kids.
"As a kid, in the times I wanted to give up, quit high school or do whatever, I saw persistence," Edgeston said. "I saw consistency. 'No, I'm going to help you. I'm going to motivate you.' No matter how far to the left I had gone, there was always a consistent 'I'm here to help you' [attitude]."
Now, Edgeston helps Caveness as his second-in-command, so to speak.
In doing so, she says she hopes the teenagers who come through here can see that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
"In my life, I had family and I had love. That [wasn't the problem]. What I didn't have was an example of success," Edgeston said. "What I didn't have was anybody to motivate me because nobody had ever been to a place where they could be motivated."
Where do they go from here? Caveness says they’ll continue to expand their outreach even further, doing what they say needs to be done to make their community a better place.