Devlin enjoys being involved in mentoring program


John Devlin saw a story in the paper six years ago about a new mentorship program in Spalding County.

“It sounded so simple,” Devlin said.

The Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program had just launched and they were looking for volunteers to mentor in the local schools. Volunteers would commit to meet with a student for one hour a week for one school year.

Devlin said he told his wife at the time, “I could do that left-handed. I’ve got plenty of time.”

Devlin, who was and still is a bus driver, said he knew exactly the student he wanted to mentor. He added that the program doesn’t normally

allow mentors to select students, but this was a special case.

The student Devlin wished to mentor was a rider on his bus and Devlin said that they didn’t get along. He said the kid was a misfit and he asked the program if he could mentor this student.

Devlin mentored the student for four years, beginning when the student was in sixth grade and staying with him through the student’s freshman year in high school.

“It made me feel so good,” Devlin said. “He would invite me to come watch his class performances.”

Devlin invited the student and the student’s family to his home for a cookout, and he even took him to a few Braves games.

Devlin’s own father died when he was 2-years old and he said that neighbors were his role models. One neighbor would take him fishing and another took him to baseball games. Now, he treats the students he mentors to similar outings.

After the student completed his freshman year, Devlin said there was less time for mentoring, but the student and Devlin stay in touch through social media.

But that wasn’t the end of Devlin’s work as a mentor. He soon took on another student.

As he did with his first mentee, Devlin finds ways to enrich this student’s life. Devlin is teaching the mentee and his younger sister to play golf. He takes them to play at least once a week in the summer.

He said his mentee, “can outdrive me almost every time” and that his sister can outdrive him on occasion.

He said the kids’ successes are rewarding to him.

“It’s just like I won the World Series. I’m just so happy,” he said.

He added, “doing things with those kids makes me feel so — I have a decent vocabulary, but it’s hard to find the word I want. I’ve got a lot more energy. It’s the same on the bus.”, Griffin Daily News Staff Writer. Jan.19,2019


Spalding Collaborative Trying to get the message out

The Spalding Collaborative is working to get the message out about what it is and what it does.

Brett Bell, chairman of the Collaborative, said he wants to bring greater attention to the Collaborative.

“Basically, we’re here to connect partners to the community,” Bell said, “like people in need with resources.”

The Collaborative does not directly provide services, but connects people with those resources.

“We don’t serve — we’re not a service provider,” said Collaborative Executive Director Regina Abbott. “We work with those who are serving, working with community partners for a stronger plan to address a community need.”

The services are funneled through and overseen by the Collaborative, Abbott said.

The Spalding County Collaborative Authority for Children and Families was created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1998 and is a part of the Georgia Family Connection — a statewide initiative that cultivates public and private collaboration at the local level, and is in all 159 counties.

Family Connections is funded by the state to provide coordination, Bell said, “and is the only one in the nation. There’s nothing like anywhere else in the country.”

The Spalding Collaborative serves as the local decision-making body, bringing community partners together to develop, implement, and evaluate plans that address the serious challenges facing Georgia’s children and families. As a part of Family Connections, Bell said, “we can learn from other counties so we’re not reinventing the wheel.”

The Collaborative, Bell said, “is kinda like the wheel that goes round and round and the partners are the spokes.”

There are about 75 local partners including government agencies, businesses, non-profits and community organizations which provide services to the community.

The mission of the Collaborative is “to improve the well-being and health conditions of families through a collaborative system of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual supports.” Its vision is that “all citizens of Spalding County are safe, educated, healthy and community-minded.”

There are three areas of focus, Bell said, “healthy children, healthy youth and a healthy community.”

Abbott said, “what we’re best known for is the Backpack for Kids. We were allocated to serve 250 kids and have reached that.”

The program provides food for students in need to take home for the weekend, so they have meals other than the breakfast and lunch provided at school.

Abbott said the program has not been expanded beyond the current seven schools they are committed to.

“I don’t want to take on what we can’t sustain,” she said. “We’re able to raise enough each year to have full funding for the next school year when the school year starts.”

Abbott said, “each year students have to re-enroll and we have a set amount for each student. If there is some we don’t use at one school we can shift it to another school.”

Bell said, “we do accept sponsorships for a student, for $235 a year.”

Another big focus is mentoring in the local schools, Bell said, “with 76 mentees and 41 mentors. Some of the mentors double up or work in groups,” with group examples including the Anne Street Elementary School’s golf and chess clubs, the running club at Atkinson Elementary School and Impact Racing Ministry.

“Mentoring,” Bell said, “is a great opportunity to pour into a young person’s life. It’s an opportunity to pull somebody along the way.”

For more information on the Spalding Collaborative, its partners and its resource directory, visit

Jan 17

Mentor program give BOE update

The Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program gave a 2018-19 Goals & Progress update to the Griffin-Spalding County Board of Educations during its Jan. 8 meeting.

Spalding Collaborative Executive Director Regina Abbot told the board that as of Dec. 17, there were a total of 41 mentors in the program. Of those 41, 30 had completed the vetting process and were assigned to mentees. An additional 11 are in the vetting process.

She also said that as of that same date, the schools had identified and recommended 76 mentees — students who would benefit from mentoring. She said that 28 students currently receive one-to-one mentoring and an additional 48 are in a group mentoring program.

During the meeting, newly-elected school board member Syntel Brown asked Abbot what was being done to promote diversity in the mentorship program.

The following Thursday, his office issued a press release saying, “It is imperative that our mentor program speaks to the diversity of our community and reflects all of the students of the Griffin-Spalding County School System in each way. I was concerned during the presentation to see the lack of diversity and was interested in the recruiting plan.”

The press release also issued an appeal to the community for more volunteers for the mentoring program.


Brett Bell, chairman of the Spalding County Collaborative, was quoted in the release as saying, “Our mentoring program has been around since 2012. We currently have more than 75 mentees and just under 50 mentors. I encourage anyone that desires to be a positive force in the lives of our students to contact the Spalding Collaborative or the Griffin-Spalding County School System to start the vetting process.”

In a phone interview, Abbot said that recruitment for the Mentor Program “casts an extremely wide net because we need diversity and by diversity we mean everything.”

She said that diversity includes race, gender, socioeconomic background and age.

She said that there are a number of factors involved in matching mentors with mentees. When there are more mentors than mentees as was the case last year, the school system is provided the mentor profiles and selects the best mentor for their students.

This year, there is a shortage of mentors and Abbot said they are asking those who currently volunteer to take on more students if they are available.

She said they are happy to partner with anyone who will help recruit more mentors and hopes everyone will spread the word.

She said they will host Mentors After Hours on Jan. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the Griffin Regional Welcome Center. During this meeting, there will be presentations from some selected mentors and mentees and Abbot said it will be a good time for anyone who is interested in the program to learn more.

To learn more about the role mentoring plays in the community and to find volunteer opportunities, email Kathy Rhodes, Mentor Program Coordinator, at or visit

Jan 15
By Jennifer Reynolds

Toma: Talk to your kids

Dylan Toma — a prevention educator with the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center — recently spoke with the Spalding Collaborative.

The center — with locations in Jonesboro, Hampton, and Newnan, serves a 10-county area including Spalding — and “provides a collaborative, coordinated community response in an effort to reduce the incidence of child maltreatment and sexual violence through prevention, intervention, and education,” according to its mission statement.

Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center services include a 24-hour crisis line at 770-477-2177, forensic medical evaluations, forensic interviews,

see talk/page A10

victim advocacy, counseling and education and outreach. They have a comprehensive referral network with community resources for those in need of assistance.

Toma provided some statistics on abuse including that 93 percent of all victims are abused by someone they know. One in seven girls has been sexually abused before age 18, one in six women have be victims of rape or attempted rape; one in 25 boys has sexually abused before age 18; and 1 in 33 men have be victim of rape or attempted rape.

“It can happen to anyone,” he said. And said the statistics came from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network,, which has a 24-hour hotline 800-656-4637 and live chat.

In Spalding County, he said, for 2017, there were 94 child sexual assaults, and the incidents of sexual abuse of children have increased over the years.

Toma encouraged parents to talk with their children about this. “Start when kids are young. Teach them their body parts; tell them there are private areas. Talk to them about secrets and that it’s OK to share.”

He told parents to “continue to engage them as teens in safety conversations. Know you child, he said, be involved in your child’s life. Make yourself available, encourage children to speak up. It’s extremely important.”

If you suspect harm, he said, “recognize the signs, which are not the same for every child. Bedwetting is not always a sign of abuse.”

Some other signs include behavior changes, like shrinking away from contact; a normally talkative child being quiet; or a child using language above their age level. Ask where they heard that language.”

When talking to them, he said, “let them know it’s OK, don’t use a stern tone. Reassure them they are not in trouble, that you will listen and help in any way you can.”

When reporting, he said, if the child is in immediate danger, call 911. If not, call DFACS or police. He noted it is up to those agencies to investigate and take action.

Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center services include a 24-hour crisis line at 770-477-2177, forensic medical evaluations, forensic interviews, victim advocacy, counseling and education and outreach. They have a comprehensive referral network with community resources for those in need of assistance.


Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center,, 24-hour crisis line 770-477-2177

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network,, 24-hour hotline 800-656-4637

Jan 12

Local program celebrates National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month and this year, the Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program is celebrating the annual campaign aimed at expanding quality mentoring opportunities to connect more students with caring adults.

Research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to strive and thrive, to attend and engage in school, and to reduce or avoid risky behavior like drug use. In turn, these young people are 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college, 81 percent more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities, 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities, and ore than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team.

Yet, the same research shows that 1 in 3 young people in the United States will grow up without a mentor.

Today in the community there are young people who could benefit from having a mentor outside their family. At the same time, research shows that 44 percent of adults are not yet mentoring but are willing to consider it and mentoring is poised for growth.

Research shows that 18- to 29-year-olds are more than twice as likely to cite having had a mentor in their childhood than those over 50. Almost half of today’s young adults report having a mentor in their youth and those rates appear to have been rising steadily over the past several decades.

National Mentoring Month is the time of year when engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor is highest.

National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, the national organization working to expand the quality and quantity of youth mentoring relationships nationwide.

Each year since its launch in 2002, National Mentoring Month has enjoyed the strong support of the President and the United States Congress. Other prominent individuals who have participated in the campaign include Maya Angelou, former President Bill Clinton, Clint Eastwood, Quincy Jones, Cal Ripken Jr., Bill Russell, and Usher.

Locally, people can participate in the Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program. It is a school-based initiative that pairs caring adults with a student who might benefit academically or socially from interacting with a positive role model. Experience is not required and training is included. All that is needed is the commitment of one hour per week for one year for one child.

The Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program began in 2012 through the combined efforts and generous contributions of the Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce, the Griffin Housing Authority, and the Griffin-Spalding County School System, and it is managed through the Spalding Collaborative.

The program currently has a total of 41 mentor volunteers and 72 mentees in one-on-one and group mentor relationships.

Submitted by Spalding Collaborative Jan 10, 2019


EPI makes healthy commitment

There were dancing fruits and vegetables at the Fairmont Community Center on Thursday morning.

Spalding County Leisure Services is doing “veggie pops or fruit flash mobs” explained Kelly Carmichael, director of Leisure Services, to encourage children to eat healthy. Carmichael spoke about this effort — and the grants received to implement it — before the Educational Prosperity Initiative meeting.

She said the effort promotes healthy eating, physical activity and evidence-based nutrition information. They started over the summer, with children trying new things, including the vegetable soup made from vegetables at the Healthy Living Community Garden.

“We have a great staff to help implement things,” Carmichael said, using the new standards at the summer activities. Staff and children in fruit or vegetable costumes sang about the eating a peach, apple, carrot, pear and pine apple with meals each day, and handed out information about the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards.

Carmichael explained that all Leisure Services activities would be following these standards — including serving a fruit or vegetable at every snack and meal; serving only foods with no artificial trans fats; serving only whole-grain rich products; serving only non-fat or reduced-fat dairy products; serving only USDA smart snacks; providing water at all times at no cost to youth or staff; serving only 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice with no added sweeteners; serving no soda, sports drinks or juice drinks to elementary and middle school-age children; and no full-calorie sports drinks, only low calorie and diet drinks for high school-age children; and only non-caffeinated beverages.

Programs will have at least 20 percent of physical activity and at least 60 minutes for full-day programs, ensuring physical activity takes places outdoors whenever possible. At least 50 percent of physical activity must be moderate to vigorous, and screen time is limited to one hour per day and for homework or activities that engage youth in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Jan 04

Rushton’s Hope brings a little Christmas to local community

Rushton’s Hope will hold a Christmas party on Dec. 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Second Baptist Church on West Broad Street.

The event is one of the many ministries Rushton’s Hope provides to Griffin residents.

“Hope for the Holidays” will offer a traditional Christmas meal to families in need. Adults will receive a gift bag and there will be games for children.

Children will be issued a punch card for the games. When they’ve played all the games and gotten the card fully punched, they will be able to turn it in for a present.

The organization is beginning a new ministry in 2019. They are working on community restoration in the area of Cherry Street near Rising Star.

They have a mission house in the neighborhood and two residents will move in.

Cook said Rushton’s Hope is trying to go to the people who need them.

“We’re not going to require people to come to us. We’re going to go to them,” Cook said. “The whole thing is community restoration — clean up the neighborhood, deal with the crime and things like that.”

When Caring House closed in 2016, Rushton’s Hope took over the ministry of caring for pregnant women in crisis. The project is called Hope for Family Life.

They offer counseling services and teach education classes in birth preparation, child care, parenting and spiritual growth. They also provides several services such as pregnancy testing and help secure maternity and baby clothes.

In early 2018, they began a new ministry, “Hope for Health” with the help of a $10,000 grant to help provide for emergency medical needs such as prescription assistance, co-pays and to lower the cost of emergency room and hospital visits.

Dec 14
By Jennifer Reynolds

Little Free Library No. 27 dedication set for Friday

The 27th Little Free Library will be dedicated Friday at the Spalding County Health Department.

The ceremony is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Health Department, 1007 Memorial Drive. The box is a newspaper box donated by The Griffin Daily News and decorated by A.Z. Kelsey students.

More Little Free Libraries are in works, according to organizer Brett Bell, with locations including Griffin Imaging, Anne Street Elementary School, the gazebo/walking track by the Iris at Park Place, and at Jordan Hill Elementary, with that one spearheaded by Dixie Johnston.

Bell thanked Crystal and Sam Sisavath who have been repairing the boxes as challenges arise such as loose plexiglass, roofing needing to be attached due to weather, door fasteners tightened.

He also thanked the Junior Guild for their assistance with sorting and putting away donated books as well as visiting locations to restock books and put a ribbon on the boxes in memory of Todd Bol, who founded the Little Free Library effort.

Bell said he was “deeply saddened” to hear of the passing of Bol, passed on Oct. 18.

“Todd spent much of the last decade working towards his vision of a world where neighbors know each other by name, and everyone has access to books,” Bell said. “He was heartened by the network of more than 75,000 Little Free Library stewards around the world dedicated to literacy and community.”

Bell also thanked Spalding High School art students are decorating out two more newspaper boxes.

“One is intended to be placed at Atkinson Elementary,” he said.

Nov 14

Superintendent gives State of the District Address

Griffin-Spalding County School Superintendent Jim Smith gave a State of the District Address on Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Griffin Region College and Career Academy.

Smith spoke about the vision of the local school district, changes that have been implemented and areas in which they hope to improve. Smith said that it’s important to him that the vision of the GSCS is to be an agent of change. “We want to prepare (students) in those early skills, those early abilities, that allow them to be successful moving into post-secondary opportunities,” Smith said.

A key point of his presentation was placing emphasis for student and school success on the community as a whole. “If we can engage families, businesses and community members in the mission of education, then student achievement will increase,” Smith said.
He said the school district needs outside support and that local businesses and organizations are more likely to support a well-run school system. “No one is going to sign on to support an organization that they view as being chaos, but they will sign on to support one they view as moving forward in a coherent fashion with a mission and vision that makes sense,” he said.

In 2016, a curriculum audit was performed by an outside organization. Smith said the goal of the audit was to uncover what GSCS does differently from districts that are considered successful and how they operate to create successful results.
“The lead auditor told our group of administrators, that because of the things that I’m showing you that we found or did not find, you shouldn’t be surprised at what results you’re getting because there are gaps,” Smith said. He added, “I think if you don’t take the time to figure out where you are, you’re doing a disservice.”

He said that since the audit was performed little more than two years ago, the school district has completed or are in progress on 75 percent of the recommendations that were made. “They came up with a number of recommendations in 10 categories ranging from board policies, to financial budget to curriculum development and review and almost anything else in between,” Smith said. Some of those recommendations were curriculum redevelopment and creating a balanced literacy plan.

The GSCS is using a model of curriculum redesign known as Rigorous Curriculum Design or RCD. This model “will offer curriculum guides for English Language Arts, math and science,” according to literature provided at the event. One of the district’s goals in creating balanced literacy means bringing all students to grade level reading skills so they are better prepared for all their classes.

Smith also said that GSCS wants the best and brightest staff, but has to compete with other schools to obtain them. He added that there is a teacher shortage throughout the United States that limits the overall number of teachers available.

One area which Smith said needs to change is the way the local community views the size of the school system. He said that people think of Griffin as being a small town, but the school district itself is not small compared to other districts.

“I believe we have to act like a larger school district. We’ve got to be a little more formalized because we are larger,” he said.
Other topics discussed were preparing children for the kindergarten with the Zero to Five Initiative, use of cameras in classrooms for training and safety and structural modifications to the schools that allow for increased student safety

Oct 26, 2018 By Jennifer Reynolds, STAFF WRITER,  Griffin Daily News

Seniors hear from state, local agencies and legislators

Senior Legislative Action Day was an opportunity to hear from state and local aging agencies and local legislators on senior issues.
McIntosh Trail Council on Aging hosted the event for Spalding and Pike counties, something Dave Lamb said he hoped will become an annual event, with a goal to bring in the federal representatives next year, since some of the issues are related to federal programs.

Lamb, who represents Spalding County on the McIntosh Trail Council on Aging, said there are “1.3 million seniors in the state over age 65, well over 10 percent of the state population. The fastest growing segment of the population is seniors, driven by baby boomers.” In Spalding and Pike counties there are 14,000 seniors, making up more than 16 percent of the population. In Spalding County, he said, seniors over 65 make up 17.4 percent of the population, and 15.7 percent in Pike County.

“The Council on Aging feels it’s important to expose you to these issues, and to expose our legislators to those issues,” Lamb said.
Georgia Council on Aging Executive Director Kathy Floyd spoke about some of the issues the Council on Aging will be presenting to legislators in the next session to meet the challenge of the senior population explosion. These include funding for in-home care, to help seniors stay independent as long as possible, noting the $4 million approved has helped bring the waiting list down from 12,000 to 7,000 for Georgians age 60 and older waiting for in-home services.

Those services include help with meals, grocery shopping and other personal living tasks, including respite relief for primary caregivers. The cost for this, Floyd said, is about 1/10th the cost of a Medicaid nursing home bed.“Keeping people independent as long as possible,” Floyd said is the goal. “It saves taxpayers. Medicare does not pay for long-term care, past 100 days. Medicaid does. Many start off as private pay, but spend their assets down until Medicaid kicks in. Hundreds go off the waiting list because they can’t wait no more.”

The Georgia Council on Aging serves in an advisory capacity on aging issues to the governor, General Assembly, state Department of Human Resources and all other state agencies. CO-AGE, the Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly, is a group of individuals, consumers and providers interested in improving the quality of life for seniors through public policy.

Another priority, Floyd said, is funding for Aging Disability Reserve Connection, a neutral source of information about options for seniors who need help staying independent. It is a coordinated system of partnering organizations dedicated to providing accurate information about long-term supports and services, a majority of which are private, not government-funded. Currently, there’s $33,000 in funding for each of the 12 statewide service areas. Additional funding, she said would strengthen the network to meet the growing population.

Other priorities include requirements for personal care homes, with 1,400 licensed in the state, to make sure they are doing the best job here. This also helps “fight elder abuse,” Floyd said.Senior living options are also a priority as is health coverage for low-income seniors, with a proposal to raise the annual income above the current $12,384 for seniors on Medicare to help them with deductibles and co-pays, as it could improve health outcomes.

Georgia Division of Aging Services Director Abby Cox and Three Rivers Area Agency on Aging Executive Director Joy Shirley also spoke. Cox works with the 12 regional agencies and Shirley is the director of the local agency, which has 43 different programs in the 10-county region.
Cox said the state programs include the Georgia Memory Network, which has five memory assessment centers across the state — in Augusta, Atlanta, Macon, Columbus and Albany — with the assessments to help detect all forms of dementia. She encouraged seniors to use the Medicare well visits which now include a cognitive screening.

“If they detect something not quite right, they are referred to the local memory assessment center,” Cox said, and after assessment and diagnosis, wrap-around support services begin, to make sure caregivers get supportive services. Cox said there is a state-planned hearing process to set goals for senior care. Three Rivers recently hosted one to get input from providers, consumers and caregivers.

Sandra Deal, wife of Gov. Nathan Deal, is a part of the Older Adults Cabinet, which includes state agency department heads so the agencies can collaborate on three priorities finding a way to protect those abused and exploited; access to services; and workforce development.
While there is currently not a cure for dementia, Cox said, one of the main concerns raised is senior hunger, “we can do something about that.” She said the solutions are local in focus, and different across the state.“We are building coalitions is all 12 service areas,” she said.

Shirley said Three Rivers Area Agency on Aging has been around since 1977 and she’s watched it grown. The 10-county region has 15 senior centers, which Three Rivers contracts with the city and county governments to provide meals programs, and make sure they are in compliance with state requirements.Three Rivers also has a database of 2,500 resources in the region, from hairdressers to those who could build a ramp. For more on aging disability resources call 770-854-5402.

Georgia District 73 Rep. Karen Mathiak thanked the three women for the services their agencies provide and went over some of the legislation that has been passed to help seniors, including bills putting teeth in penalties and punishment for elder abuse. Others will help seniors stay in their homes longer, and help with education for caregivers.

Georgia District 16 Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) said “we need to remember its not about programs it is about people. Caregivers are very, very, very special people,” sharing his own experience with them and his family. “We need partnerships, public and private,” he said. “ Government can’t do it all.”



Oct 25, 2018  RAY LIGHTNER, Griffin Daily News