A long-time educator spoke on the connection between community, God and education at the Alma Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon on Tuesday.

Benny Gooden, Arkansas Colleges of Health Education executive director of institutional relations, spoke on the strength of small communities whose residents hold a belief in both God and the importance of education.

“I firmly believe in the field of education, where you take every child and try to make them better than they are - that’s the Lord’s work,” Gooden said.

People all over Arkansas want a better life for their children, Gooden said, and it’s teachers that help make that happen.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see students do things they thought they couldn’t, things that most people told them they couldn’t do, and they had that success because of what teachers do,” Gooden said.

Gooden also spoke about the emphasis placed on children in the Bible, and the importance they play in the community.

“Your educators in this community literally touch the future,” Gooden said.

Gooden went on to compare small towns and communities to jigsaw puzzles with multiple interlocking parts, that are stronger when they come together.

“Communities like Alma all across Arkansas value children, and small communities are the fabric of this nation,” Gooden said.

Gooden retired as superintendent of schools in Fort Smith after 30 years and has served in public education for 50 years as a teacher, building administrator, central office administrator and for 41 years as a school superintendent.

Gooden’s first job in education was at Alma School District in 1966 as a band director, he said.

This was the second year for the luncheon, which is organized by the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce. This year’s theme was honoring and praying over Alma schools and educators.

Invocation was given by Larry Walker, senior pastor at Grace Church. Donnie Crosswhite, First Baptist Church of Alma’s worship pastor, gave the dedicated prayer.

First Baptist Church of Alma hosted and catered the event.