The Statewide Organization for Community eMpowerment’s (SOCM) Rutherford County branch sponsored a Community Kayaking Day on the Lake on May 13 at the Jefferson Springs Recreation Area. The event was offers as an opportunity for members of the community to have fun on the lake and have an opportunity to learn more about SOCM and their mission. There was no charge for this event. And interest in SOCM was not necessary to participate.
Some participants brought their own kayaks and canoes, while others used ones provided by SOCM and Middle Tennessee State University Recreation Center. Whether participants were beginners or advanced paddlers, organizers made sure everyone who came out learned the basics about kayaking, water safety and Tennessee’s waterways.
Enjoying nature is one of SOCM’s areas of interest, so this was an opportunity for folks to enjoy the spring weather on the lake, and meet with friends old and new. Everyone gathered at the JS Loop Group Site off of 7660 West Jefferson Pike. There is a pavilion located there with picnic tables and restrooms. While the threat of thunderstorms and high school graduation kept numbers down, those who attended had a great time and learned about what the organization has done and what they hope to accomplish in the future.
SOCM is a grassroots organization started 50 years ago as Save Our Cumberland Mountains. It has since changed its name and there are affiliated groups in just about every county in the state of Tennessee. It is a member-driven organization dedicated to empowering Tennesseans in their efforts to have a greater voice in determining their own future.
Throughout their history, SOCM’s members have taken on local, state and national campaigns to make lives better for everyday people. Members have learned over time that real change requires long lasting groups that are rooted in relationships, and built on shared experiences. The Rutherford County branch of the organization was formed to take on issues tied to the landfill, but they are currently focused on the Third Grade Retention Law.
While SOCM has collective powers across the state, each county arm pursues its own interests in the areas of the environment, education and social justice based on what is happening within their county and members interests.
“[W]e believe that positive change happens when everyday people join together to tackle the critical issues that impact their lives,” says their website. “We also know that this doesn’t happen by magic. Structure, organization, relationships and leadership development are key to the long-haul work of improving our communities.”
Candida Layne, organizer of this Day on the Lake, enjoys the sense of community she has experienced since joining the group and the sense of empowerment she has gained.
“SOCM is a platform to address injustices in the community that politicians are not addressing,” explained Layne. “We meet once a month via Zoom, and have an annual state-wide meeting every year.”
The organization also provides training to its members on leadership, working with legislators, creating campaigns and more.
As Margaret Mead once said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”