EPI hears about Heritage Park

Spalding County Manager William Wilson Jr. spoke to the Educational Prosperity Initiative (EPI) on Thursday about the updates to the Heritage Park project.

In the past, several members of EPI have expressed concern about the lack of forward movement on the Heritage Park project which, in part, seeks to preserve a historic Rosenwald School.

Rosenwald Schools were built in rural areas for African American children in the segregated South between 1912 and 1932.

According to “Preserving Rosenwald Schools,” a booklet by Mary S. Hoffschwelle, the schools were the concept of Booker T. Washington, who approached Julius Rosenwald, a philanthropist and part-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co., with an idea to build schools for rural black children.

“With a shared faith in the power of self-help, Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald insisted on local contributions to match Rosenwald grants for these experimental schools,” the booklet explains.

The schools were in use until a 1954 Supreme Court ruling declared segregation in education unconstitutional. Since that time, their use declined and many have been abandoned or demolished, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which estimates that only 10 to 12% of the 5,357 schools, shops and teacher homes that were constructed through the grants still survive today.

During the virtual Zoom meeting, Wilson showed the architectural plans for the updates to the location on North Third Street in Griffin. Plans include preserving as much of the Rosenwald School as possible, such as the existing chimneys. They will also install insulation, LED lighting that will be in a style that reflects the period in which the school was built, heating and air and electricity.

The plans also include adding parking and a welcome center to the right of the school, which will include handicap-accessible ramps and bathrooms and will provide a covered, handicap-accessible ramp into the Rosenwald School. Wilson said the facade of the welcome center will be designed to complement the exterior of the Rosenwald School.

He said the end result will be a “showcase” and said, “It’s really going to change the neighborhood.”

The existing Equalization Building will be given over to the Griffin Housing Authority for renovation and use, according to Wilson.

The main concern expressed by EPI members during the meeting was the lack of bathrooms in the Rosenwald School plans. Wilson explained that to install the federally required handicap bathrooms would take up a significant amount of space in the Rosenwald building and that the handicap bathrooms in the welcome center will be accessible via the covered ramp between the two buildings.

Jewel Walker-Harps expressed her appreciation to Wilson, the Spalding County Board of Commissioners, the Griffin Housing Authority “and others involved,” saying she was confident the facility will be “top rate” like the Spalding County Senior Center “and will be admired by all surrounding areas.”

Wilson agreed and said that like the Senior Center, the Rosenwald School and welcome center will be “state of the art.”

Jennifer Reynolds, Griffin Daily News June 4, 2020

Collaborative gets update on Census

Terrell Perry, of the US Census Bureau, gave an update on Census statistics in Spalding County to the Spalding Collaborative during its virtual May meeting held Wednesday.

At the time of her presentation, Georgia ranked 34th in the nation with a response rate of 54.9 percent. Within the state, Spalding County ranks 29th of responding counties and the City of Griffin ranks at 157th of responding cities.

“You guys are doing a great job but we need to pick up the pace a little bit,” she said.

Within the county, the area of Sun City Peachtree has a 79 percent response rate which Perry said is “way ahead of even the national average.”

The lowest response rate countywide is from the Sunny Side area which is garnering a response rate of 29.8 percent. However, this number is significantly higher than the response rate from the 2010 census which was only 11.7 percent and which Perry called “dismal.”

She said that Griffin is on track to “hopefully surpass” the 2010 rate.

Canvassing was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Perry said that the window for responses has been extended from the end of July to the end of October.

“That gives us three extra months to get everybody counted,” she said.

When canvassing begins again, participants will go door to door wearing masks and gloves. She said the best thing to do is to encourage the local community to self respond so no one has to go out.

[email protected]

County nurse speaks on COVID-19 in Spalding

Spalding County Nurse Manager Cynthia Tidwell spoke to the Spalding Collaborative during its May virtual meeting.

She gave information on how COVID-19 is impacting Spalding County.

At the time she spoke, there were 237 people within Spalding County who tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 deaths attributed to it. She said that in all 12 cases, there were underlying medical conditions and the ages of those patients ranged from 33 to 95.

She said she is very pleased with how local leadership and the community have come together to do what public health has asked to help keep from spreading COVID-19.

Now that places are reopening, she said that public health is pushing to remind people to social distance by keeping at least six feet apart from those who they do not cohabitate with, to wear masks, wash hands for at least 30 seconds, and to sanitize things such as doorknobs frequently.

She said studies have shown that the virus lives on metal so when touching things such as doorknobs or gas pumps it is a good idea to hold something in your hand so as not to make contact with these items or to wear gloves.

“No one can protect you better than you can protect yourself,” she said.

She encouraged anyone with symptoms to begin self quarantining right away, but said that it can be difficult to know if you have it as some patients display no symptoms and some do not have a fever.

Within the local Georgia Department of Public Health district, District 4, there are three test sites for drive-through coronavirus testing. Sites are in Newnan, McDonough, and Thomaston. Anyone wishing to be tested should call 1-800-847-4262 to make an appointment.

Tidwell said anyone who tests positive will be contacted first by public health to let them know their results. Then, a contact tracing team will
contact them to help them identify anyone they may have come in contact with so they can be alerted that they may have been exposed.

She said that more testing means the number of cases may go up and no one should panic if they see numbers increase. Overall, she said Spalding County is doing a good job and should keep up social distancing.

For more information, call Tidwell at 770-560-0796.

[email protected]

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