Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives and Legislators Share Vision, Resources to Improve Lives

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Region 8 gather with their legislators and county commissioners
Representatives from Georgia Family Connection gather with legislators and county commissioners from southwest Georgia.

Children from16 counties in southwest Georgia struggle every day to attain healthy and productive lives, so Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives hosted a regional breakfast this month to give their legislators and commissioners a better understanding of the most pressing concerns of the families in their districts.

Nearly 40 percent of the children in the region are living in poverty, and that rate jumps to 50 percent in three of those counties. The region has the highest percentage of students in the state who are absent from school more than 15 days, and 44 out of 1,000 teen girls are having babies.

The Collaboratives also showed their legislators how they’re working to improve conditions for children and families in their communities, and explored new ways they can continue to work together.

Map of Georgia featuring Region 8

“I didn’t realize it was as bad as this,” said Richard Morris, chair of the Quitman County Commission. “Those of us who sit on top and look down as we manage finances and all the other parts of the county don’t get the perspective from the bottom up. Family Connection represents a group of people who might not get represented. I appreciate that so much, and the work they do.”

Morris noted that people like Sara Lee Crumbs, Quitman County Family Connection coordinator, provide that much-needed insight. “They tell us what’s really going on with families and people in our communities. We need that voice.”

That unique insight saves lives, according to Marion County Family Connection Collaborative Coordinator Kevin Brown. “People perish for a lack of vision,” he said. “So many people from our communities can’t see past today. We provide a sense of hope through relationships, and that’s why we come together—to build a stronger network in our region—because we share the same problems. Every decision we make, everything we do, affects someone’s life.”

State Representative Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert) agreed. “You are the individuals on the front line telling us about poverty,” he told representatives from Family Connection. “You are a binder in which you have brought together so many different groups where we understand our communities and the problems they face. You make a difference in the community.”

Jamie Lloyd, vice president of Economic Development at Columbus Technical College, applauded Georgia for being named the number-one state in the nation for workforce and economic development thanks to doing well on the demand side—attracting and growing new companies. But he said our state could do better on the supply side by developing foundational human capital.

“Research indicates there are correlations between educational attainment and quality-of-life factors such as crime rate, health, poverty, and civic engagement,” said Lloyd, who also serves on the Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) Board of Directors. “We can’t have large portions of our population that don’t have basic skills. For lasting change to begin, it’s necessary to maintain and grow citizenship. When we all do that, our state will soar. That’s why I’m so profoundly honored to be a part of Family Connection—because that happens on the community level.”

Some of the ways Georgia Family Connection is helping children, families, and communities in southwest Georgia thrive include:

  • free dental, vision, and hearing screenings for needy families;
  • backpack and summer food programs for hungry students;
  • social media campaign with the Community Partnership for Protecting Children to spread awareness about child abuse and neglect;
  • school career days and annual job fair;
  • summer tutorial program for out-of-school youth and adults leading to GED attainment;
  • poverty simulation series educating community leaders about the facts and realities of poverty;
  • monthly parent cafés to provide parent education and support to strengthen families;
  • annual volunteer income tax assistance for those who need help filing their taxes; and
  • employment information and referral in support of the largest solar panel manufacturing project in Georgia, providing 1,500 jobs.

“We know that on any given day, our families can—and do—encounter difficulties,” said GaFCP Executive Director Gaye Smith. “But there’s one thing we also know: we always need to be working together effectively and efficiently to make sure families get what they need to become—and remain—self-sufficient.”

Georgia Family Connection—the only statewide network of its kind in the country—helps people reach their potential by empowering the children and families of our communities, and the partners and stakeholders who support them. Here is how to reach the Collaboratives in Region 8:

Chattahoochee County
Cusseta-Chattahoochee Community Connection
Michael Ellison
chattahoochee.gafcp.orgClay County
Clay County Family Connection
Eddie Watson

Crisp County
Crisp County Community Council, Inc.
Sherry Evans

Dooly County
Dooly County Community Enrichment Coalition
Jarret Barnes

Harris County
Harris County Family Connection, Inc.
John Winchester

Macon County
Macon County Family Connection

Marion County
Marion County Family Connection Collaborative
Kevin Brown

Muscogee County
Columbus Children Youth and Family Coalition, Inc.
Sharita Lang

Quitman County
Quitman County Family Connection
Sara Lee Crumbs
quitman.gafcp.orgRandolph County
Randolph County Family Connection, Inc.
Kuanita Murphy

Schley County
Schley County Family Connection
John Greene

Stewart County
Stewart County Family Connection
Edwina Turner

Sumter County
Sumter County Family Connection
Krystal Heath

Talbot County
Talbot County Family Connection
Dorothy Bass

Taylor County
Taylor County Family Matters Collaborative
Nancy Peacock

Webster County
Webster County Family Connection
Jennifer Boling

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director

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