Georgia County Government - August 2010 - (Page 26)

Feature Southwest Georgia Counties Pursuing Real Innovations to Improve the Future By Deborah Dewberry C ounties surrounding Dougherty in the Southwest Georgia “farmbelt” like Calhoun, Worth and Terrell are coping with the ongoing economic downturn by developing alliances among all stakeholders in the local economic picture — especially with regard to helping youth and the disadvantaged and fighting social problems that arise in a region with a disproportionate number of people living in pov- erty. The understanding that the community’s economic outlook is inextricably tied to solving social concerns is a springboard for progress here. Calhoun County’s ‘Vision That Works’ Alecia Varnum, director of the Calhoun Family Connection and volunteer director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Commission, points out strengths have emerged in times of adversity among rural communities. “The counties in this region all have much in common, but we’re also all unique,” she explains. “We didn’t have the ‘big bank’ problems seen in counties with larger economies, but we all know the economy is a key issue. We all understand that social problems affect our economic prospects, and that we Downtown Sylvester, the Worth County seat, hosts an annual peanut festival in October, one of the largest festivals in the Southeast, sponsored by the Sylvester/Worth Chamber of Commerce and local food manufacturing giant ConAgra Foods. 26 GEORGIA COUNTY GOVERNMENT have to work in an interrelated way on these issues to get economic goals met. Though it seems anomalous, economic goals are fundamental to the Calhoun Family Connection’s strategic plan,” Varnum asserts. “This vision works for us.” Elaborating, Varnum says that the Family Connection in Calhoun County realized that the ongoing issues affecting the community during challenging economic times are those that most heavily impact the community in any economy — teen pregnancy, high school graduation rates, job development programs and keeping youth who do well living and working in the community. “A foremost mission of the Family Connection is understanding the unique needs of each county in the region and collaborating with all community stakeholders — the boards of education, the county commissions, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce and civic groups,” Varnum asserts. “The results have been remarkable.” A long-anticipated Charter School will be up and running in the next year for kindergarten through sixth graders in Calhoun, Baker, Clay, Early and Randolph counties. Another coup was a U.S. Department of Juvenile Justice grant to implement and maintain a mentoring program among senior citizens and high school youth. The Senior Citizens Youth Book Project, with the motto of “Honoring Our Future with the Wisdom of the Past,” gives approximately 15 students the chance to write the stories of local seniors’ lives and awards a $1,000 scholarship for participating students that graduate on time. The program, open to ninth and 10th graders, has proved a great motivator for participating students. Results have been seen, too, in terms of higher morale

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - August 2010

Georgia County Government - August 2010
President’s Message
Focus on Southwest Georgia
Lee County: Continuing to Prosper and Grow
Southwest Georgia Counties Pursue Real Innovations to Improve the Future
Leading Edge Waste-to-Energy Methane Gas Facilities Depend on County Landfi lls
ACCG Honors 10 Georgia Lawmakers For Outstanding Service During 2010 Session
ACCG Welcomes New Staff
Federal Health Reform: Implications for Counties
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - August 2010