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Spalding County Collaborative Authority for Families and Children

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Ferst Foundation combats childhood illiteracy

As she was leaving a meeting where she said there were more children than funding available for all of them to receive books from the Spalding County Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, resulting in a waiting list, Louisa Melton said she was stopped by a parent who told her a story that explains why the group’s mission is so important.

The mother had adopted a child when he was very young. The first few months of life had been traumatic, and as a result, he had no language skills.

For the next few years, Melton said the parent read, sang and talked to the child constantly. A turning point came when the child began to receive his very own books from the Ferst Foundation. He realized the books were his to keep, that he did not have to share them or return them and that he could read them over and over.

Reading soon became his favorite thing to do. He began kindergarten and was ready to learn, and he is now a successful third grader, Melton said.

“No child should have to wait to learn,” Melton said. “So many children walk into pre-kindergarten or kindergarten with no language background, which has them starting two years behind.”

Melton said studies have shown that if a child is read to just 15 minutes a day develop better language skills, are better readers when they begin elementary school and are more successful academically. If they are successful in school, they are more likely to graduate from high school and ultimately contribute positively in the work force.

The Ferst Foundation’s mission is to help prepare young children for the best start possible when they enter school. It accomplishes this by supplying children from birth to 5-years old enrolled in the Ferst program with an age appropriate book every month until their fifth birthday. A newsletter accompanies each book with a guide for caretakers, an activity page for the child and literacy support material.

When Melton and Diane Pruett first formed the Spalding County Ferst Foundation, it started providing books for five children. By the end of 2015, the group was providing books to 1,115 children each month.

While there was a waiting list at the time, the group now provides books for 820 Spalding County children and there is no waiting list.

“This is a more sustainable number,” Melton said.

The foundation registers 90 percent of its children through government agencies such as the Department of Family and Children Services, Spalding County Health Department, Babies Can’t Wait, Head Start and WIC as well as the Griffin-Spalding County Library and WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital.

Melton said the Ferst Foundation wants to supply books for all Spalding County children from birth to 5 years, funding is a constant concern. The group does receive some funding from grants, but relies mostly on donations.

While enrolling in the program costs nothing for the family, it only costs $36 per year to fund books for one child.

All donations to the Ferst Foundation are tax deductible, and 100 percent of all donations go to books. Donations can also be made in honor or in memory of someone.


The foundation would like to get more Spalding County businesses involved in donating to the program.

“We would love to come and talk to businesses and organizations to get the word out about how the program works,” Melton said.

While the foundation needs donations, the local Spalding County Community Action Team also needs volunteers.

Melton said the team currently has 10 members but needs more volunteers to publicize Ferst’s efforts and talk to clubs about the program.

“We have got to get the word out,” Melton said.

Donations can be mailed to the Ferst Foundation at P.O. Box 2092, Griffin, Georgia, 30224.

For more information, call Melton at 770-584-6241.


Fairmont oral history project seeking stories


An oral history of the Fairmont community is being compiled by the University of Georgia-Griffin Campus.

So far, 15 people have been interviewed for the oral history project, according to John Cruickshank, a librarian at the UGA-Griffin Campus Library. The project began a few years ago, Cruickshank said, following a presentation he made on the history of Fairmont based on what historical records he could find about the source of the name.

“Right after,” he said, “people came up, told me they knew some of the people I’d named.”

The oral history, he said, is a first-person account of the history.

“There are a lot of narratives people don’t know about,” he said. “I thought it would be important to gather information up to digitize, archive and share.”

He said the effort so far has concentrated on older people in the community, before those memories are lost. “We interview them for about an hour,” with times varying depending on what the person has to say. “Mostly, we let them talk, and only ask a few questions.”

Art Cain, coordinator of Continuing Education for UGA-Griffin, said he’s been fortunate to serve as one of the interviewers. Some of those interviewed so far included Haskell Ward, Bob Dull and Jewell Walker-Harps.

“I got a call from Jewell,” about the project, Cain said, “and she can be pretty persuasive.”

He said his duties at UGA-Griffin give him some freedom to pursue projects he’s interested in, so he has worked on this oral history project.

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount about Griffin,” Cain said. “I did not grow up here, but grew up in a town very similar and I see the similarities in the stories here.”

Oral histories, he said, “are more powerful than written histories. You hear from primary sources.”

Cain said, “if you know someone, we’d like to interview them. It’s a project once archived, it will be around in perpetuity.”

This oral history is documented and archived at the UGA’s Richard B. Russell Library in Athens and online. You can watch and read verbatim transcripts of the interviews, Cruickshanks said.

Walker-Harps said it’s not just black people, “it’s white people, brown people, people who were part of legislature, those who served in interracial organizations that helped with desegregation.”

“We are looking for persons who attended the vocational school at the former Rosenwald school, anyone who remembers Molock’s Gym at the school. What it’s all about is telling our history,” she said. “Fairmont was very vibrant community, where our doctors, lawyers, teachers and preachers came from.”

Walker-Harps thanked UGA-Griffin, saying “it wouldn’t be happening with these guys from UGA. It really is a lot of work.”

Anyone interested in sharing their story, or the stories of their parents, Walker-Harps invited them to call the Griffin Branch NAACP at 770-228-3990.

Visit https://ugaurbanag.com/fairmont-oral-history-project/ to listen to or read the transcript of the interview with Jewell Walker-Harps.

Fairmont Homes transitioning out of public housing

The Griffin Housing Authority is transitioning Fairmont Homes out of public housing.

Bob Dull, chief executive officer of the Housing Authority, provided an update on the project to the Educational Prosperity Initiative Thursday, saying there will be $16.7 million spent in a public/private partnership to rehabilitate Fairmont Homes and Nine Oaks. Doing it this way, he said, allows the Housing Authority to leverage the property, and get work done a lot quicker than waiting for federal housing funds, which may or may not ever come.

Dull said the “facelift,” with both exterior and interior work on the units, is projected to take about 11 months, and will be done in phases. Residents will be temporarily relocated to units at the Oaks at Park Pointe during the work, with about 35 families at a time being relocated.

Dull said the relocation would “begin between the end of this month and the end of the year.”

“This would be different than what we did with Meriwether Homes,” Dull said, where residents were given vouchers and had to reapply to move back to the Oaks at Park Pointe. He said with Fairmont and Nine Oaks, residents will be temporarily moved to open units, or could stay with family, if they choose, and would “continue to pay the same monthly rent,” getting the same in rent subsidies.

They will be moved back when the work is done, with moving expenses included, Dull said. Both of the sites will remain subsidized housing.

He said the Housing Authority is working with the Griffin-Spalding County School System to limit the disruptions and keep transportation to the same schools for the students, who he said are mostly from Moore Elementary and Kennedy Road Middle schools.

Dull said resident services will write a plan for each family.

“We’re trying to lessen the impact,” Dull said. “We’ve invested a lot of money in the kids at Fairmont.”

The transition for the Housing Authority, he said, is a move from public housing “to a project-based residence fund, which allows for a more steady source of income, not relying on what may or may not come from Congress.”

He said that funding can increase or decrease from year to year.

The effort at Fairmont Homes is coupled with the city and county efforts to revitalize the area, Dull said, noting the SPLOST-funded projects at Fairmont Park and Heritage Park, as well as the efforts to combat blighted and substandard housing.

He said a windshield survey of housing, where people were taking pictures from the outside, has provided a snapshot of 9,800 dwellings in Griffin.

“We have a lot of substandard housing in Griffin and Spalding County,” Dull said. “This is a recognition that substandard housing is not acceptable.”

“It’s time we talk about the facts, it’s time we recognize and expose it for the purpose that we need more dollars to do something about it,” Dull said.

He said the survey is part of the city’s effort to be certified as a Planned First city, which qualifies it for more grants and funding.

“They only provide funding to cities that care, and we’ve got it for the past three years,” Dull said.

HUD (Housing and Urban Development), he said, is pushing “further affirming fair housing plans” and the survey and the revitalization efforts so far have put Griffin ahead in that.

The transition at Fairmont Homes and Nine Oaks, along with the work done at the former Meriwether Homes, totals about $63 million that has be leveraged in public and private partnership. There are two buildings going up on Meriwether, Dull said, “a senior building at the Oaks, behind the Police Department, and another senior building, right on the ninth hole of the golf course at City Park.”


  • By Ray Lightner, Griffin Daily News August 4


Little Free Library Book Drop now at WellStar Spalding Regional

WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital announced the opening of its “Little Free Library Book Drop” outside the entrance to the hospital’s Women’s Center.

The library site opened on July 10.

Rock Springs Christian Academy art teacher Grace Anderson and her students designed the look of Spalding Regional’s box. Art students Taylor Jones and Larissa Prince created the actual box on hand for the opening.

The “Little Free Library” is a new initiative of the Spalding Collaborative, whose focus is to build lending libraries providing books to children where they might not have access to the Spalding library.

The Collaborative goal is to have 12 or more new lending libraries in 2017, and add additional libraries in 2018.

The libraries operate through the honor system of “take a book, give a book.” The collaborative determines the library locations and also seeks organizations to either buy or build a library, and be responsible as stewards for their individual library.

WellStar Spalding Regional’s book drop is the first to open in the county to gather books and provide an inventory for all of these libraries.

This inventory system was the project conceived and organized by a Griffin-Spalding Leadership 2017 team — Kathleen Smith of the WellStar Foundation, Kim Stephens of WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital, Andrea Dunson and Dale Ammons of First National Bank, and Fred Rudbeck of Georgia Power.

This group designed a program to obtain books through larger organizations in the community and also allow the community at large to donate children’s books through these new book drops. Each book drop host, such as WellStar Spalding Regional, delivers all the books to First National Bank of Griffin who built an inventory system to house and assist in distribution of the books needed to supply the “Little Free Libraries.”

“Our goal was to provide a sustainable and manageable inventory system to support the “Little Free Libraries” well into the future, allowing our community’s children access to reading no matter where they are,” Griffin-Spalding Leadership Team Leader Kathleen Smith said. “Our team had a great time organizing this project and now on behalf of all of us, we invite you to donate books for all our kids.”

Donate new or gently-used children’s and young adult books, for reading ages 5 to 18 anytime 24 hours a day. The books will then supply the “Little Free Libraries.”

Submitted to Griffin Daily News by
Jennifer Hudson
WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital
Senior Marketing Strategist

Two Little Free Libraries open at Orchard Hill Park

The 8th and 9th Little Free Libraries opened Friday afternoon at Orchard Hill Park with two ribbon cuttings.

“One that looks like a red barn is for children who use the playground and the other is for adults using the walking track,” said Brett Bell who has headed up the effort with Spalding Collaborative to put up at least one Little Free Library a month across the county. Like the one downtown, Bell said, he’s put in some audio books for adults.

He thanked the sponsors for each box and invited them to speak.

Sue and Chuck Gilpin are the sponsors and stewards of the children’s one, which Sue said Chuck designed and built. She also thanked their neighbor and their daughter for their help. Bell said Sue Gilpin approached him about sponsoring one after the first one was put up. Sue Gilpin said she “grew up within walking distance of a library.”

The sponsors and builder for the one for adults are Sam and Crystal Sisavath.

“He’s really stepped up,” Bell said, “building several of these for us.”

Sam Sisavath said, “we love it, we love to read, to expand knowledge.”

Crystal Sisavath said she was not much of reader as a child, but loves books now.

“If I had this as child, I would have been a reader,” she said.

Bell said there are three steps to putting up a Little Free Library.

“First, find a sponsor, to buy or build a box,” he said. “Second is find a location. The first one in this community was outside Dr. Bruce Reid’s home on Maple Drive.“

Third and final piece, Bell said, “is to find people to be stewards who are held accountable that the material in the box is age-appropriate. For the children’s boxes, they have to check it every day. Once you’ve got the pieces of the puzzle in place, then you have to plan for sustainability.”

He thanked Andrea Dunson of First National Bank for taking that part in the project. Dunson said it was the project for the leadership team she was a part of at FNB.

She thanked First National Bank, which has set it up and added it to the job description for the marketing director at the bank to be responsible for getting books to the Little Free Libraries. The bank is the book depository for the Little Free Libraries and is one of the collection points for the books, which can be dropped off at any time during business hours.

First National Bank will soon have an outside drop box, like the one at WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital.

Bell also thanked the community for all the support, including the county and Orchard Hill officials there Friday, including Mayor James Morgan, City Councilman Robert Morgan and City Clerk Harriette Dearing.

Two more are planned in August, at Raymond Head Jr. Park at 4 p.m.on Aug. 18 and at at DeVotie Baptist Church at 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 30. The Department of Juvenile Justice will be sponsor and its youth will serve as stewards for the one at Raymond Head Jr. Park and DeVotie Baptist Church is sponsoring and stewarding the one there.

The locations so far include CHARMS at Fairmont Homes, the Oaks at Park Pointe, Third Ward Park, downtown at East Broad and South Hill streets, Fairmont Community Center, Knowledge is Power at 229 West Poplar St., and Airport Road Park.

For more information on the Spalding Collaborative LFL Initiative, see http://spalding.gafcp.org/little-free-library-initiative/ or contact brettbell@designscreated.biz and doris@spaldingcollaborative.com.


Two Little Free Libraries coming to Orchard Hill

Brett Bell and the Spalding Collaborative are “bringing Spalding together one Little Free Library at a time” with business and community coming together at locations across the county.

The next two Little Free Libraries will be at Orchard Hill Park. Bell said both will be placed near the entrance. One is sponsored and stewarded by Sue and Chuck Gilpin with the other sponsored by Sam and Crystal Sisavath and their family will serve as stewards.

One will be for children and one for adults. This has been done at other locations with the ones at Fairmont Park having three boxes for three age ranges of youth, and the one downtown across from the Welcome Center for adults.

A ribbon-cutting for the Orchard Hill Park site will at 4 p.m., Friday. Two more are planned next month — at Raymond Head Jr. Park at 4 p.m., Aug. 18 and at DeVotie Baptist Church at 4:15 p.m., Aug. 30.

The Department of Juvenile Justice will be the sponsor and its youth will serve as stewards for the one at Raymond Head Jr. Park while DeVotie Baptist Church is sponsoring and stewarding the one there. Bell has other locations, sponsors and stewards in the works.

He proposed doing at least one a month since starting in January and has kept on the pace, even with one being postponed earlier this month. One planned for the Healthy Life Community Garden was postponed because of the renovation work being done on the site of the former Fairmont High School as part of SPLOST-funded Heritage Park project.

“Once the construction has been completed we will move forward with a Little Free Library at this location,” Bell said.

The theme of the Little Free Libraries is “take a book, leave a book,” with the goal to promote literacy. There are seven so far, plus others at Jackson Road and Cowan Road elementary schools, and one on College Street, outside a doctor’s home.

The locations so far for the Collaborative effort are CHARMS at Fairmont Homes, the Oaks at Park Pointe, Third Ward Park, downtown at East Broad and South Hill streets, Fairmont Community Center, Knowledge is Power at 229 West Poplar St., and Airport Road Park.

To help keep the Little Free Libraries stocked, donations of gently-used books are accepted at First National Bank, which is the collection center. There’s also a drop box by the Women’s Center at WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital, where books can dropped off.

For more information Spalding Collaborative LFL Initiative, visit http://spalding.gafcp.org/little-free-library-initiative/ or email brettbell@designscreated.biz and doris@spaldingcollaborative.com.

  • Jul 26, 2017

Hospital Authority accept grant applications

The Griffin-Spalding County Hospital Authority is accepting grant applications for 2018.


The Hospital Authority administers certain trust accounts, using the proceeds to improve the health and well-being of the residents of Spalding County.


Under applicable laws and trust agreements, the authority may make grants to not-for-profit organizations for health-related purposes, provided the funds granted are used for the residents of Spalding County.


The authority reviews requests for grants annually, notifying applicants of disposition.


If you believe your organization may qualify for consideration of a grant under these guidelines and are interested in applying for funds, contact the Griffin-Spalding County Hospital Authority at 770-229-5767 or in writing at P.O. Box 1592, Griffin, GA 30224, or via email at ymlangford@gmail.com for a grant application form.


Applications can also be picked up at the offices of the Hospital Authority at 245 Meriwether St.

The deadline for applications is Aug. 18, 2017.

Mentor program needs volunteers

As the new school year is approaching quickly, so is the need for volunteers with the Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program.

According to Program Coordinator Elly Zhilyak, the program currently has 29 mentors and serves 10 local schools — Anne Street Elementary, Atkinson Elementary, Moore Elementary, Jackson Road Elementary, Rehoboth Road Middle, Kennedy Road Middle, Cowan Road Middle, Griffin High, Spalding High and A.Z. Kelsey.

“Sixty would be a great number,” said Zhilyak when asked about her goal as to the number of mentors she would like to have in place when the new school year starts. “Each school should have at least 10 mentors, but that number is filled based on need and availability.”

The key idea behind the Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program, which kicked off in January 2013, is to connect students with mentors who can guide and support them.

“It’s a direct way to affect your immediate environment and have a positive impact on children that will grow up to be members of our society sooner rather than later,” Zhilyak said.

“If we don’t step in to make a positive impact, the chances of someone stepping in to make a negative impact is that much greater,” she added. “I think it is important to empower the up-and-coming generation with the tools they need to function their best in their personal and professional lives. There is no better way to do this than to mentor.”

There are certain requirements to become a mentor for the local schools — beginning with an application that can be found at gscmentor.org, a background check and an orientation training for which dates will be announced soon.

In addition of being at least 18-years old, mentors must also commit to visiting their assigned student at least once a week for a minimum of one hour per week throughout the school year.

“Not everyone can become a mentor, however, you can be an advocate,” said Zhilyak. “You may know someone who has the time, the heart and the willingness to be a mentor. Tell them about the program or suggest they become a mentor. That will be more helpful than you can possibly know. Help us spread the word.”

Zhilyak also pointed out that the mentor program’s website allows members of the community to donate to the cause, as funds will be used for training materials and books, among other things.

For those who decide to join the program, there will be monthly mentor meet-ups to help support the mentors and provide them with a sense of community, said Zhilyak, adding that mentors will also receive more training, such as the Stewards of Children training.

The Griffin-Spalding County Mentor Program has pages on Facebook (gscmentorprogram), Twitter (@GSCSMentorVillage) and Instagram (gscmentorprogram), plus a Facebook group page for those who start mentoring as another place to create a sense of community for mentors, Zhilyak said.

For more information, visit gscmentor.org or email Zhilyak at elly@spaldingcollaborative.com or elly.zhilyak@gscs.org.

By THOMAS HOEFER thomas@griffindailynews.com July 20, 2017

Local teens attend leadership program


The Spalding County Youth Advisory Council recently attended the Georgia Teen Institute to learn leadership skills and to lay the groundwork for the upcoming year. The Spalding County Youth Advisory Council is a youth-based workshop working within the scope of the Spalding Collaborative. It is a community service and youth leadership team made up of local middle and high school students who address youth-related issues in the Griffin-Spalding County area. The council is also affiliated with Gwinnett United in Drug Education Inc. (GUIDE).


GUIDE sponsors the yearly Georgia Teen Institute, a summer training program with year-round support. Youth councils attend the institute at Oxford College to learn more about their communities and to plan peer-focused prevention and community service projects to use in their communities. They also engage in the Strategic Prevention Framework planning process through workshops, teen meetings and team-building activities.


Spalding County students attending the four-day institute in June with chaperone Carmen Caldwell were Yasmine King, JaKiyah Gregory, Gracia Evans, Naysa Gilbert, Dy’Mond Bell and India Berry. Griffin High School’s Shamere Crawford, a member of the Spalding Youth Advisory Council for three years, was selected this year to serve as a member of the GTI staff, which Caldwell says is a highly competitive assignment.


Spalding’s Youth Advisory Council is committed to peer-focused alcohol and substance abuse activities throughout the year, Caldwell said. The team is planning a youth seminar for Red Rib-bon Week, which takes place the last week of October. “The seminar is aimed at helping their peers with the skills to resist the pressure of using alcohol and drugs,” Caldwell said. The Spalding YAC is also planning to provide resources for their peers to help them find healthy alternatives to dealing with stressors that lead to sub-stance use and abuse, which can lead to students’ dropping out of school, Caldwell added.

Caldwell said Spalding YAC will also do other peer-focused activities through-out the school year, including social media campaigns, public service announcements and news articles.

“They are tackling two issues — underage drinking and substance abuse and high school dropouts, but with the training and support they received at Georgia Teen Institute, the support of the Spalding Collaborative and its partners and the support of the community, there is no doubt they will do a great job addressing these issues facing their peers,” Caldwell said. The Spalding YAC is open to any middle and high school-aged youth living in Spalding County.


“We welcome students that desire to impact their peers and community in a positive way,” Caldwell said. Any teen interested in joining the council may contact YAC adviser Marty Mayes at 678-409-6370 or by email at mayes.marqavius@gmail.com.

Karen Gunnels, Griffin Daily News Staff