Hometown Hero: Hooker gives back to his community

By JASON PATTERSON,

Jonathan Hooker has always believed that you don’t have to be wealthy or powerful to make a positive difference in your community.

The 34-year-old Yazoo native is proving it every day.

Hooker isn’t content to complain about problems he sees in his hometown. He’s willing to do what he can to improve Yazoo, and he’s forming partnerships with like-minded people along the way.

After graduating from Yazoo City High School in 2002, Hooker joined the National Guard. He went through basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. and spent the next six years learning valuable skills.

“I learned a lot about hard work and discipline in the National Guard, and that helped me prepare for the future,” he said.

After completing his service at age 24, Hooker worked at the Nissan plant in Canton for a while before moving to Minnesota where his sister lived.

But it didn’t take long before he started missing Yazoo.

“Yazoo is home to me,” he said. “I never felt at home in Minnesota. I see a lot of potential in Yazoo, and I would rather try to work to make the place where I was born and raised better than to try to do those things somewhere else.”

Hooker returned to Yazoo and held jobs at a local grocery store and with the Mississippi Department of Transportation before joining Scott Petroleum, where he has worked for the last five years as a fuel truck driver.

“I love my job because I have a lot of freedom, and I get to meet a lot of interesting people,” he said.

Hooker said he loves his hometown, and it is where he and his wife Jessica want to raise three children, Comelia Davis, 13, Ja’Miyah Hooker, 10, and Johnathan Hooker Jr., 7.

But he sees room for improvement. He decided to do his part to help make those improvements.

One of his first volunteer efforts evolved from a discussion Hooker and his cousin Macklyn Austin had about wanting to do something for people on Thanksgiving.

“It started out with us just talking about giving some hens to the less fortunate for Thanksgiving dinner,” he said. “The original idea was that we would buy about 25 to 30 hens and just give them out to people who needed them.”

But their effort quickly grew much larger. As they began sharing their idea, others were supportive. Soon it grew into a Thanksgiving Bash that fed many Yazooans and included prize giveaways and free haircuts provided by local barbers.

“It was a good idea that just continued to grow,” Hooker said. “The more we talked about it, the more we realized that we could do more.”

Hooker said he was pleasantly surprised at how many people got behind their effort.

“It was overwhelming,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get people to do anything around here, so I thought it was going to be hard to get many people to support this effort. That wasn’t the case at all. It was a great experience. The Housing Authority donated gift cards for Walmart, Kaye’s grocery store sold us the hens at their cost, and a lot of people donated. My mama and Macklyn’s grandmama donated food along with other people. We just paid for the rest of it out of our pockets.”

Another idea that grew into something that exceeded Hooker’s expectations was when he and Richard Mack established the Yazoo Wildcats youth football team.

“I didn’t know Richard at the time,” Hooker said. “We met through Macklyn, and we realized we had the same vision. We mainly just wanted to give kids the opportunity to do something positive that would keep them off the streets and out of trouble. We want to save as many kids as we can, and give them something positive to do.”

Hooker said there weren’t any organized activities for local youth after baseball season ended so they decided to try forming a football league. They kept the cost as low as possible to encourage participation, and many local boys quickly signed up. The Yazoo Wildcats ended up having three age groups participating with a total of 96 children and a dozen volunteer coaches.

“Once we got the kids signed up, things went pretty smoothly,” Hooker said.

The season was very successful with the Wildcats. Two of the three Yazoo teams won the Super Bowl in their division. The City of Yazoo issued a proclamation in January recognizing their achievements.

The Wildcats team will soon begin their second season.

Hooker also serves on the Yazoo Parks & Recreation Board. In addition to his experience with the Yazoo Wildcats, he also coached his son’s t-ball team.

Another joint effort sponsored by Hooker and Austin is a $1,000 Dream-Believe-Achieve Scholarship being offered to a graduating senior who has committed to a college or university.

Hooker said he hopes that if anyone learns anything from his actions it’s that anyone can make a positive difference in Yazoo.

“I don’t have much, and I’m certainly not rich,” Hooker said. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t help others. That’s what I want to do, and I hope to encourage others to do the same. It’s not about trying to get credit for something or anything like that. It’s about helping each other and improving our community.”