Terry Tolbert has spent 50 years fighting for his community at the EOA

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 12:13 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Economic Opportunity Authority of Savannah-Chatham County has been around for nearly 60 years and Terry Tolbert has been there for 50 of them.

Working in many different roles over that time, including the past two as Executive Director, Tolbert has certainly had some fun over the past 50 years.

Even if this wasn’t originally the plan.

“No, absolutely not. I thought I was going to be gone in five years,” laughs Tolbert.

So, how did that five years become five decades?

“Cause it’s fun.”

Admittedly Terry might have a different definition of fun.

See, growing up in Savannah, near Crawford square, Terry had his fun fighting for change.

“When I lived down there, as a child, all those parks downtown were recreational parks. Then, they started changing them to what I call, ‘passive parks.’ But we prevented the only park downtown from becoming a passive park. That’s why the basketball court is still there.”

And he got comfortable dealing with the uncomfortable.

“He said, ‘why are you doing this? You’re upsetting the status quo?’ I said, ‘too bad. The status quo needed to be upset,’” Tolbert recalled.

So, after Terry graduated, he took a job with the EOA and started having fun.

“We knew that nothing could happen in a community unless the community got involved and made some substantial noise about things being changed.”

Helping usher in programs for high school dropouts, homeless veterans, a community garden, Head Start, foster grandparents and more.

Each holding a special place in his heart.

“There’s just so many things you can’t point to just one.”

While there’s plenty of things Terry could hang his hat looking back over the past 50 years, he’s busy looking ahead.

“Is it finished? No. Will it ever be finished? I never think it will. As we get one person out of poverty there’s another that goes into poverty.”

So, maybe that’s why Terry still hasn’t walked out the door for good, there’s still work to do .and he doesn’t plan on giving up so, neither should you.

“I think people should never give up. I think it’s important that even when it looks like the door is closing it’s not shut. I tell people, the cemetery that’s across from us, inside the cemetery is dreams that were not fulfilled because they quit or gave up. I would say yeah, it’s difficult, it’s hard, it’s challenging, but never give up and never take no for an answer.”