Community empowerment workshop planned

By Carlton Fletcher – Albany Herald

District 6 Dougherty County Commissioner Anthony Jones, who represents the county on the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, was at a meeting of that Camilla-based group recently when he overheard Melody Pierce of Work Force Georgia and Berneta Haynes of the Georgia Watch group discussing the many programs in the area that provide help to lowand moderate-income residents.

A light came on for Jones. “What Ms. Haynes and Ms. Pierce were talking about is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been wanting for the citizens of Dougherty County for quite a while,” Jones said. “So while Berneta and Melody were there, I grabbed them and we powwowed.”

What the trio came up with, with input eventually from the Cairo Housing Authority’s John Marriah, is a workshop that will provide information on educational and monetary opportunities available for lowand moderate-income families and individuals. The event, dubbed a “Community Access and Empowerment Workshop,” will be conducted at the Albany Housing Authority at 521 Pine Ave. from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

Pierce, whose federally funded agency has a presence in Albany, Cairo, Bainbridge, Thomasville and Moultrie, said when she learned that Georgia Watch’s Haynes had planned a presentation

for Saturday in Cairo, she approached her about conducting a workshop in Albany the day before.

“I told her, ‘Let’s really make it worth your while (to come to the region),'” Pierce said. “We worked with officials of the Albany and Cairo Housing Authorities, and they thought (planning a workshop) was a great idea. In fact, everyone likes it so much, we’re considering making it a pilot program to use throughout the region.”

Jones, who is in his second term on the County Commission, said he and several of his colleagues are constantly looking for ways to provide opportunities that can positively impact the impoverished citizens in the county and in the region.

“As we started discussing the different educational and financial assistance programs that are available, it dawned on me that one of the big problems — especially with people who are living in poverty — is that they don’t know what’s available,” Jones said. “I’ve been wanting to put together some kind of program or information outlet to get the word out there to these individuals.

“After brainstorming, we came up with the concept of a workshop that will provide information about what is available to the people in our community.”

Jones said the workshop will include means of addressing various financial issues, including debt management, utility conservation, avoiding medical debt.

“What I envision is a workshop that helps people take control of their own finances,” he said. “We want to help some of our lower income folk learn how to evaluate expenses and income, how to make changes in their homes that will allow them to reduce their energy bills, and how to manage and avoid medical bills.”

One of the other primary focuses of the workshop, Pierce said, will be introducing citizens to partners who can help them with these issues.

“We need for people who are struggling to know that there is assistance available,” she said. “Education is a vital factor, but it’s also important that our citizens realize that there is help available.”

In addition to Haynes, Pierce and Jones, officials with both the Albany and Cairo Housing Authorities will participate in the workshop, which is offered free of charge but requires an RSVP from participants.

“There is no cost, but because space is limited, we need for interested persons to RSVP,” Jones said. “You can do that by calling Danita Wiggins at (229) 434-4500, extension 220. If this goes as well as we hope, we could expand it and hold future workshops at larger venues like the Civic Center.”

The Dougherty County commissioner said he’s excited about the possibilities afforded by the planned workshop.

“This is an opportunity to truly empower the people of this region to start taking control of their finances and of their lives,” Jones said. “I’m just elated that we were able to take advantage of an opportunity that presented itself and come up with a collaborative program that could have a lasting impact on the people of our community.”


Copyright © 2017 Albany Herald

Source: Albany Herald