Volunteers are not paid—not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. With most of us leading busy lives, the idea of volunteering may seem impossible. How can we fit anything else into our already
jam-packed schedules? Why would we do that? Despite all the other important things that compete for her time, Joan Carter, our own hometown treasure, has made it her mission to do exactly that. She is a woman who has made it her mission to lighten the burden for thousands of Texarkana residents for over five decades now. She has a gift for seeing a need and with tenacity, determination and perseverance, she steps in to do what she can to make things better. Judy Morgan, friend and partner in many of her volunteer efforts, shares, “Joan is someone who looks to the future with optimism, who sees the glass as half full, who finds the positive about every situation. She recognizes that the job one can do is only as good as the people on the team. From her conviction that people are everything, [she] magnifies all impact as a master of bringing out the good of every individual on the team at every level. The essence of her superior leadership skills coupled with a servant’s heart is just the way she lives her life—whether it is in the workplace or not. Texarkana is a better place because Joan lives here and serves here.”
Carter was born in Clarksville, Texas, where she had a “wonderful” childhood. She met her husband, the Honorable Jack Carter, in high school when he moved to Clarksville from Detroit, Texas. After she attended Paris Junior College, they married in 1964 when he was starting law school at the University of Texas. In 1967, they moved to Texarkana, and he began his legal career. They have three children: Sondra, Clay and Justin.
Although not a native of Texarkana, she immediately found ways to give back to her new community. It all started when she became involved with the Junior League of Texarkana. Carter says, “The Junior League offers outstanding training opportunities and encourages volunteerism. I took advantage of the training and workshops on goal setting and time management, as well as many others.” She served on the Board of Directors for several years and went on to serve as their President. The Junior League encouraged its presidents to serve on community boards, so this opened the door for an invitation to serve on the Texarkana Special Education Center Board of Directors. She says she was “surprised and astounded by the many services and programs that were offered to the community that she was unaware of.”
As a member of the Board of Texarkana Special Education Center, Carter encouraged the center to hire someone to do public relations and fundraising. “I thought the community should be made aware of the many programs and services available to help those in need, such as training, transportation, meals, housing, therapies and many others, as well as to raise much needed funds to support their programs.” She did not realize then that she had just written her own job description! After a few months, Patty Smith, Administrative Director, and Frances Holcomb, Program Director, asked her to consider taking a part-time position as Development Coordinator until they could find someone to do the job. Joan took that position, and her life became a mirror of her favorite quote, “Find something you love to do, and you will never work a day in your life.” That is “exactly what happened to me!” she said. “I became passionate about serving people who had special needs in our community and remained in that position for 33 years!” The name of the Special Education Center was changed to Opportunities, Inc., to represent the many opportunities available to individuals in Texarkana.
The essence of her superior leadership skills coupled with a servant’s heart is just the way [Joan] lives her life…” —Judy Morgan
“Patty, Frances and I became a wonderful team, and Opportunities programs and services increased greatly. We were blessed by a dedicated and committed Board of Directors who were friends and were supportive of new ideas and projects.” They brought the Nike Golf Tournament to Texarkana, and it was a tremendous success. It was a community effort that helped raise funds to support people with special needs in the Texarkana area. “It was the first event that I knew of that seemed to erase the state line,” Carter recalls. With the help of the Board of Directors, they held the most successful capital campaign of that time, raising over seven million dollars to build a debt free facility. Carter continues to serve as a member of the Opportunities, Inc. Foundation Board. Lisa Shoalmire, the current president of the Board of Directors shared, “I came on the Board at Opportunities at a time that was later in Joan’s tenure there. To a young board member, Joan, with her charm and grace, made the fundraising and development role look effortless. In reality, fundraising is very difficult. Joan is a tenacious workhorse behind the scenes in raising awareness and funds for the most vulnerable in our community at Opportunities. We value her marvelous legacy!”
In the early 90s, Carter’s husband, Judge Jack Carter, was serving as District Judge and presided over cases of abused and neglected children. He became concerned that these children were not receiving adequate support in abusive situations. Together with others in the community, Judge Carter started CASA Texarkana to advocate for the hope, healing and justice these children deserve. In true Joan Carter style, she saw the need and with much enthusiasm jumped in to support her husband and assist those who need it most in our community. She served on the Texas State CASA Board in Austin for three years. Brandy Eldridge, current Executive Director of CASA Texarkana shared. “We need women who know when to fight for injustice and when to open their arms for healing. Joan Carter IS that woman. She is not going to back down when change needs to happen. She is also not going to miss an opportunity to show kindness and love. She has been that for me–a shoulder to cry on and a kick in the pants to get me going!”
As a mother, Carter also felt the need to contribute to her children’s educational involvement. She has volunteered with Texarkana Independent School District, St. James Day School and Pleasant Grove Independent School District. When her daughter was a first-grade teacher at PGISD, she recognized a need for the elementary school facility to be upgraded, so she became involved in passing a successful bond election. She served on the committee which assessed the needs and helped organize campaigns. Pleasant Grove residents voted to approve a bond issue, and the new beautiful Margaret Fischer Davis Elementary School is now open for all Pleasant Grove Elementary students.
In honor of Joan’s meritorious civic service, she received the Texarkana USA Chamber of Commerce C. E. Palmer Award in 2009. Established in 1941 and named for former Texarkana Gazette publisher, Clyde E. Palmer, this is Texarkana’s most prestigious award for individuals with extraordinary lifetime dedication and service to the community. Joan humbly shared, “When I think of the names of the people who have received that prestigious award, I am amazed and shocked that my name is listed among theirs! There are so many good people in our community who care about others and want to improve the quality of life for all. None of these things have I done on my own!”
Currently, Joan is involved with The Clay Eichler Memorial Foundation. Clay’s Golf and Guitars is a yearly event that raises funds to support different non-profits in our community, such as education, scouting and supporting individuals who are struggling. She and her husband also remain very active and at Central Christian Church where they are committed to serving in various ministries. Wherever there is a need, you can count on the Carters to show up and lend a helping hand.
Her greatest joy of all, however, is spending time with her family. Because of the pandemic, she and her husband have not been able to travel, which is one of their favorite things. They have planned a beach trip this summer and look forward to spending time with their family, especially the loves of her life, her grandchildren: Carter, Colton, Caroline, Sydney, Ellison and Evie.
“Throughout my career and volunteer efforts, I have met wonderful people who worked right along with me and have become dear friends. That is one of the greatest benefits and biggest blessings of becoming involved in the community,” Carter said. “While serving others, hopefully you are improving the quality of life in your community. It is a joy to work with friends who share your passion for helping others.” What a light Joan Carter is in Texarkana. Indeed, no one is more cherished! May we all slow down, look around and ask ourselves more often-whose burden we can make lighter? And then go DO IT!