Three little libraries are in the works

The Griffin/Spalding community has 28 Little Free Libraries but with three are planned to go up by the end of June.

Brett Bell — who has been spearheading the local effort along with a lot of help from the Spalding Collaborative and the community — said the next one will be at Anne Street Elementary School. The Spalding High School art students are decorating newspaper boxes donated by The Griffin Daily News.

“When this first started,” Bell said, “the intent was to do 12, one a month. We got there and then some, by community interest and support.”

First National Bank and Wellstar Spalding Regional Hospital have drop-off sites for books.

“Andrea Griffin of First National and the Griffin Junior Guild now go around to all 28 boxes and check to see if they need books or repairs,” Bell said.

Homer Maddox, Bell said, is the part-time maintenance man for the boxes, making repairs, replacing doors, and repainting.

Bell, as vice chairman of the Spalding Collaborative, is asking for the help.

“At this stage,” Bell said, “it needs to be a community effort to maintain the boxes. If you see a box needs fixing, fix it. Everybody and anybody can help.”

He’s also working with the Rotary Club of Griffin to challenge all the clubs in District 6900 to each put up a box.

“Literacy is a direct focus of District Gov. Jim Squire,” Bell, a Rotarian, noted.

“We will give them direction on how to build and maintain a box. Send a picture to us,” Bell said.

The Rotary Club of Griffin erected the three “Three Little Pigs”-themed boxes at Fairmont Park.

“We will erect another at the new dog park. It will have a dog theme,” Bell said.

“We are asking everyone to chip in and be a part,” he said.

Nat Doughtie and Bob Stapleton on the Community Service Projects Committee at Rotary, Bell said, “will be working with other service organizations to be a part of the sustainability, asking them to take on boxes, to make sure the boxes are maintained and don’t become dilapidated.”

Griffin Daily News Staff Report March 29, 2020

The Senior Issues committee seeks ways to improve the quality of life for the seniors of Spalding County.

In their most recent monthly meeting, members heard about the needs of the Meals on Wheels program and addressed ways they might help support its needs.

Meals on Wheels in Spalding County is organized through Spalding County Parks and Recreation in conjunction with Three Rivers Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging. It is overseen by Senior Nutrition Coordinator Doris “DC” Carter.

Meals are prepared at the Spalding County Senior Center and are delivered, predominately by volunteers, to qualifying seniors.

Carter said there is typically a waitlist for seniors who wish to be included in the program. She said she doubts the waitlist will go away for two reasons. She said seniors learn every day that they need meal assistance and that as the program grows and more people become aware of it, more will sign up. However, she said she thinks that help from groups like the Senior Issues committee may help reduce the wait times for seniors.

She said that there are some supplies she needs for seniors in the program which are not covered by Meals on Wheels grants. One example she gave of a need that is not provided for financially, was of a senior whose microwave was not working. She said it is an important need because the delivered meals need to be cooked in a microwave.

Another need that was cited was food for pets. Mark Weaver who chairs the Senior Issue Committee, which is a program headed by Spalding Collaborative, said that during the recent poverty workshop held by the Collaborative, it was found that seniors who said they are hungry, often are because they are giving their own food to their pets.

Carter said she is passionate about incorporating the delivery of food for companion animals along with the Meals on Wheels. She said she is in talks with a local dog rescue group to try to launch such a program and plans to call it Animeals.

After Carter’s presentation, members of the Senior Issues Committee used their remaining meeting time to discuss possible fundraisers to help support the Meals on Wheels program needs outlined by Carter.

One fundraiser they hope to potentially launch is a walk-a-thon, which is an event where volunteers agree to walk for a certain distance in exchange for the sponsorship of individuals or businesses.

However, there are many details that must be resolved before any such event can take place such as date and time, how far people will walk, where it will be held and what, if any, liability issues must be addressed before such an event could go forward. Members plan to continue working toward that goal.

Volunteers are needed for Meals on Wheels.

For more information, call DC Carter at 770-467-4076 or by email at [email protected]

[email protected]

Caldwell outlines dangers of vaping

Carmen Caldwell from the Middle Georgia Alcohol & Substance Abuse Prevention Project presented the Spalding Collaborative with information about the dangers of vaping at its last meeting. Caldwell said the use of e-cigarettes, which is also called vaping, is an epidemic, and many who use e-cigarettes are unaware of the risks associated with their use.

“When we hear vapor, we think steam, but it’s really an aerosol with a lot of chemicals that we don’t know a lot about,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said that such flavors appeal to youths. “They market to young people very heavily,” Caldwell said. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes offer many flavors such as mint, watermelon, mango and more. The Trump administration recently signed into law a partial ban on flavored e-cigarettes, but it only went into effect last weeks. She said that through her work with the Middle Georgia Alcohol & Substance Abuse Prevention Project she has found that most teens do not know that e-cigarettes contain nicotine. She said studies have shown that most teens think e-cigarettes contain flavored water.

“We know nicotine to be very addictive,” Caldwell said. “They think they’re not getting nicotine or they think it is safer than a regular cigarette. “She said that research shows that the human brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25, and the use of e-cigarettes can potentially cause developmental disorders. “Over time, (vaping) can create very adverse and serious health issues with-in our young people,” she said. Caldwell said it can be difficult for parents and teachers to know if teens are vaping. Some vaping devices look like everyday items such as USB drives. There are also lines of clothing and accessories with hidden compartments that teens could use to hide vaping products. She encourages parents and teachers who discover such items to have conversations with kids.

“The bottom line here is e-cigarettes are not safe for you, not safe for adults, not safe for young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products,” Caldwell said. “It was seen as a way to help and support people who were using regular cigarettes to wean off but now that’s even starting to change because of the levels of nicotine.


Feeding Griffin Together raises $2600 for Backpack Food For Kids.

Feeding Griffin Together raises $2600 for Backpack Food For Kids. Feeding Griffin Together, an annual lunch and concert designed to raise hunger awareness and raise funds to “feed Griffin together,”raised $2600 this year. These funds will be donated to BackPack Food for Kids, a Spalding Collaborative program that gives ready-to-eat food items to children in the GSCS system that may not have access to nutritious food at home. “We are so excited that we more than doubled the funds that we raised last year. We didn’t quite meet our goal of $3000, but I am confident that this event will continue to grow and do great things for this community,” said event organizer Jessica Gregory. “Our sponsors –The Chicken House, City Church, Georgia Perimeter Homes, Griffin Gallery, Tommy Allen Real Estate, United Bank, and several individual citizens -are definitely the ones to thank for that –their contributions covered the event costs, allowing 100% of the ticket sales to go toward our cause,” continued Gregory.

Event attendees enjoyed concert by local musicians Ryan Cummings and Cole Jackson on a crisp fall day on November 3 in the Park at 6th, and took home a commemorative hand-painted bowl, which is to serve as a reminder that there are people who continue to go hungry. Plans are already in the works for the next Feeding Griffin Together, which may be moved to the spring instead of the fall, according to Gregory.

Back Pack Food for Kids is in its seventh year of providing ready-to-eat meals for elementary-aged children at six Griffin-Spalding County Schools. The program sends out 8,000 food items per month, serving an average of 250 students per year. They hope to eventually expand to serve students from all 11 local elementary schools, but want to make sure they can financially support each additional school long-term before they add any schools.

To make a donation or for more information, please email [email protected] Images Credit: Michael Renew

Task force seeks to reduce school absences

During the November meeting of the Educational Prosperity Initiative, Regina Abbott discussed her work on the Attendance Task Force, a group that oversees student absenteeism in the local school system.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, an unexcused absence is any absence that does not fall in one of the following categories — personal illness, serious illness or death in the student’s immediate family, religious holiday, serving as Page of the General Assembly, registering to vote or voting (not to exceed one day), when conditions render attendance impossible or hazardous to the student’s health or safety, or when mandated by order of governmental agencies.

In all other cases, “any absences, which are not permitted under the Compulsory School Attendance Law and by policies and regulations of the school system Board of Education will be considered unlawful (unexcused).”

Georgia state law says that after five unexcused absences, parents or guardians will be given written documentation telling them of the possible consequences of failing to comply with the law, and after seven unexcused absences, a referral will be made to a social worker.

It is when a student has 10 unexcused absences that a referral to the Attendance Task Force is made.

Abbott, who has been on the task force for just over one year, said that usually by the time a student gets to them they have had 30 or more unexcused absences. She said it has been as high as 60.

According to her presentation, unexcused absences can lead to missed learning and the risk of falling behind. She said it can also cause students to disengage socially and lead to feelings of alienation.

In the longterm, she said the consequences of missing school can cause adverse health outcomes, lead to poverty in adulthood and/or increase the likelihood of interacting with the criminal justice system.

She said when a student is referred to the Attendance Task Force, the parent or guardian is called to meet with them. She said if the student is old enough, (middle or high school age) they are also called to meet with the task force.

During the meeting, a social worker reviews the case with the parent or guardian and then the members of the task force ask questions.

“We try to hear them out and engage in conversation with them, to ask questions and find out what it is they need to be able to be in school,” she said.

After the discussion, the parent or guardian leaves the room and the task force creates a list of recommendations. Next, the parent or guardian returns and they are presented with the recommendations.

She said there are a number of resources they use to help reduce the number of absences. Some of these include mental health treatment, skills training and counseling.

“Rather than just punishing, finding actionable solutions is often effective in reducing truancy,” a portion of her presentation read.

She said that there are several ways the community can participate in reducing unexcused absences in the local system. She said that anyone who wishes to help can volunteer as a mentor, become a court-appointed special advocate, become certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid and more.

“Parents, schools, youth all have a responsibility in preventing truancy,” Abbott said.

Jennifer Reynolds staff writer @ Griffin Daily News.

Program provides meals for children

Kathy and Ronnie Rhodes have volunteered for the Back Pack Food for Kids program since 2013 after Kathy retired after 31 years as an educator in Clayton and Spalding counties.

They are the current directors for the program. Kathy first learned about the program when then director Joseph Walker spoke to the teachers about the program when she was at Griffin High School in 2012. Walker asked them to be the directors in 2015 and despite their daughter’s wedding being four months off, they accepted.

The program, she said, provides meals for children on the weekends “who face food insecurity.”

To participate, students must be part of the free or reduced breakfast and lunches at the school and the participating schools are based on the numbers of students at the school on free or reduced breakfast and lunches. Parents have to fill out the application, she said.

There were about 256 students in the program this past school year, across six elementary schools — Cowan Road, Atkinson, Moore, Jackson Road, Beaverbrook, and Anne Street.

She said the school let them know how many they have each week — and they try to keep it about 250, but it has gone as high as 275.

The bags that go home with the students include food for two breakfasts and two lunches and a snack for the weekend. She said the bags are distributed by the schools, usually by teachers putting them in the child’s backpack.

This only happens during the school year as they don’t have direct contact with the students. There are other programs that provide meals over the summer.

The program costs about $69,000 a year for the food, and they’d like to have the funds banked ahead of time to pay for the upcoming year so they don’t have to fund raise during the school year. The program is part of the Spalding Collaborative Authority for Children and Adults.

She said the program is in the process of finding a new location to store and sort food, after having worked at Five Loaves Two Fish Food Pantry, since starting. The food pantry is expanding and needs the space, she said, and notified them back in November.

She said volunteers meet on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. to set up the food and at 10 a.m on Thursdays to pack and deliver the food to the schools.

“We always need volunteers,” she said.

To volunteer, email [email protected] for more information.

Ray Lightner, Griffin Daily News

Golden Pencil Award

Spalding Collaborative Youth Advisory Council members were presented the Golden Pencil Award at a statewide ceremony because they did more community hours and projects than any other group in Georgia. Pictured are Danaysia Thurmond, parent Penny White, Dy’mond Bell, Jeanetta Allen, Adult Advisor Lisa Fambro, Noah Jones, Kyle Teller and Demetrius King. Yoshunda Jones is the other adult advisor.

Project Aware donates to LFL

Project AWARE has donated 58 books to be placed in the 28 Little Free Libraries around town. The books selected focus on mental health, since May was Mental Health Month.

The books are new and geared to elementary age students. The books were part of the Project AWARE Raising a Reader program in the Griffin-Spalding County School System.“We had some left over,” explained Debbie L. Crisp from Project AWARE. After the books were given to each of the elementary school counselors, the remaining 58 were donated to the Little Free Libraries. The titles included “A Giving Tree,” “An Awesome Book of Love,” “Virginia Wolf,” “The Rainbow Fish,” “Chrysanthe-mum,” “Elmer,” “A Chair for My Mother,” “Tops & Bottoms,” and “Jamaica Louise James.” 

Brett Bell — who’s led the Little Free Libraries project for the Spalding Collaborative — thanked them for the books, which will be used to help supply books for the boxes. Andrea Dunson of First National Bank, the librarian for the Little Free Libraries, thanked Project AWARE for the donation and thanked volunteers from the Junior Guild who go out and stock the boxes and report back on what is needed, be it more books or repairs to the boxes. Bell also thanked Homer Maddox, who has taken on keeping the boxes repaired. “We’re committed to building and sustaining this program,” Bell said

Ray Lightner Staff writer. Griffin Daily News

Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse

According to Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, Georgia is currently ranked 39th in the nation for child well-being, and Prevent Child Abuse America estimated that as of 2012 child abuse and neglect costs the state anywhere from $2 billion to $3 billion annually.

To help combat child abuse and neglect, certain laws exist to help ensure that abuse or suspected abuse is reported and done so in a timely manner.

Workers and volunteers who participate in child-related industries such as schools, medicine or even church groups with children’s programs were

recently invited to attend a free training session to help teach their staff the signs of abuse in children and what to do once those signs occur.

The event was taught by Maureen Oginga from Prevent Child Abuse Georgia and was hosted by the Spalding Collaborative on Wednesday at the Spalding County Extension office.

During the training session, attendees were instructed on the laws governing mandated reporting — the legally required notification of authorities when child abuse, exploitation or neglect is known or suspected. They were also taught the four types of abuse and warning signs, dos and don’ts for when a child discloses abuse and the procedure for reporting suspected child abuse.

Oginga said that a mandated reporter has 24 hours to make a report of suspected maltreatment and that in the state of Georgia, workers and volunteers who work with a child-focused organization are required to report suspected abuse to DFCS.

The four types of abuse are physical, neglect, sexual and emotional.

Physical abuse is any non-accidental physical injury of a child. Some signs of possible physical abuse include unexplained bruises and welts, unexplained burns, unexplained fractures or dislocations and bald patches on the scalp.

Children who have suffered physical abuse will often display behavioral signs as well, such as feeling that they deserve punishment or wearing inappropriate clothing as a means to hide injuries.

Oginga said that the second type of abuse, neglect, is the most common type. This can take the form of a child not having enough food, clothing or shelter. It can also be emotional or educational neglect. Some possible physical indicators of neglect are a child that is chronically hungry, has poor hygiene, or has a consistent lack of supervision. A few behavioral indicators are stealing food, constant fatigue or assuming adult responsibilities.

Sexual abuse, Oginga said, is most commonly perpetrated by an individual who is known to the victim and one-third of all sexual abuse is perpetrated by another child. She said that studies show that one in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.

Some behavioral signs that sexual abuse may have occurred include inappropriate sex play or advanced sexual knowledge and promiscuity. Physical signs may include difficulty walking or sitting or the presence of a sexually transmitted disease.

The final type of abuse, emotional abuse, occurs when there is “excessive or aggressive parental behavior that places unreasonable demands on a child to perform above his or her capabilities.” The training materials provided during the class said this is frequently verbal abuse and that it typically occurs over a period of time.

This type of abuse can give rise to speech disorders, delayed physical development, antisocial or destructive behaviors or even neurotic traits.

Attendees learned that when a child discloses abuse, they should talk privately with the child, reassure the child and listen openly and calmy. It was recommended that they write down the facts and words as the child states them and to respect the child’s need for privacy. Then, the abuse or suspicion of abuse should be reported to a local child protection agency or law enforcement.

If you know of or even have “reasonable suspicions” of child abuse, you can make an anonymous report by dialing 1-855-GACHILD (1-855-422-4453). If a child is in immediate danger, dial 911.BY JENNIFER REYNOLDS STAFF WRITER [email protected]  Jun 13

If you missed the Mandated Reporter Training, You can do it on line.

Accountability Court set up to help instead of punish

RAY LIGHTNER/DAILY NEWS Senior Judge Sid Esary spoke with the Educational Prosperity Initiative to get the word out about the Accountability Court.

Spalding County has an accountability court to help veterans and those with drug, alcohol and mental illness issues get treatment and stay out of jail.

“We take individuals charged with a crime, and pull them out of judicial system and put them under our umbrella,” Judge Sid Esary said.

It is a voluntary 16-month program, he said, where participants have to agree to treatment, counseling, drug testing and if they complete the program the charges are dropped.

Esary, a former State Court judge, said, “for 10 years, my job was to determine if someone did or did not do it, assess a fine or punishment. What was being accomplished? Not a dag-gum thing. We’ve taken away their money and ability to get a job.”

When they serve the sentence, he said, “they were no better off.” The purpose of the accountability court, Esary said, “is to try to help them instead of punish them. Punishment only goes so far.”

He explained the accountability court is a new movement in the justice system, where they are pulled out of the system and suspend the sentence, while treating the underlying problems of drug and alcohol abuse/addiction and mental health problems.

“We bring them out of the system and put them through a rigorous treatment program, with twice weekly drug tests, counseling sessions, over 16 months,” Esary said.

In that process, Esary said, “we hope they learned to deal with problems and they are given tools to deal with them.”

The Spalding County Accountability Court started two years ago, right after Esary retired as State Court judge.

“I was appointed by Judge Josh Thacker, who succeeded me, as a judge pro tem (temporary), and was appointed a senior judge by the governor,” Esary said.

In that time, there have been nine graduates, he said, with15 currently in the program and another five or six coming in.

“The whole idea of the accountability court is just that, to hold them accountable. It is an alternative to punishment,” Esary said.

“We try to catch them before they are convicted, so they don’t have a conviction on their record when they get out,” he said. “If they complete the program, we dismiss the case against them.”

Esary said the program “ain’t a walk in the park. It ain’t easy.”

He said it is voluntary, and some do not want to do it because they have to give up drugs and alcohol.

“They’d rather pay the fine or go to jail,” Esary said.

“We have folks with severe problems, and the problem is not just because they are weak,” Esary said. “There was poor upbringing, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Once that monkey is on your back, it is hard to get rid of.”

The objective, he said, “is to treat the underlying problems, so they don’t get in trouble again. It is funded by a grant from the state and some local funds for office space, but because of the funding, it is limited to those charged with a crime.”

Esary works with the Spalding County State Court, Griffin Municipal Court and Spalding County Superior Court, and gets referrals from those courts.

“We do a background check, and ask the prosecutor to them under our program,” he said. “They will dead docket the case, not prosecute, as long as they complete the program.”

He said, “we have had to remove four or five, out of some 30 we’ve dealt with. Eighty percent actually succeed, graduate from the program (and it) is actually outstanding.”

Esary spoke to the Educational Prosperity Initiative, to help get the word out.

“We’ve gotten the word out to the lawyers,” he said. “Our program doesn’t cost a dime, there’s no fees at all for first class treatment. I thought they’d be knocking the door down.”

They have such a success rate, Esary said, “because people have bought in. If you are our program you can get a temporary license, so you can drive to the program, and keep a job. There’s no cost, first class treatment, and hopefully you get well.”

The treatment includes counselors and psychiatric care from McIntosh Trail. They work with Waypoint Veterans Resource Center to get help for the veterans, and work with Veterans Affairs, local prosecutors and law enforcement.

Only persons with mental health issues who have committed offenses or veterans who have become involved with the criminal justice system are eligible. No one with a current or prior sales, distribution or intent charge will be considered, nor will anyone with a residential burglary, sex crime or violent offense. Other disqualifiers may include number of prior arrests and convictions, but requirements are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

For more information or an application, contact Accountability Court Coordinator Leslie Heffron at 770-467-8824 or for an application.

Mar 08
[email protected]