Task force seeking to help underprivileged youth

by Wes Mayer

A local task force dedicated to improving the lives of residents in the lower income neighborhoods of Newnan met for its second meeting at Newnan’s City Hall recently to discuss potential future programs for the community.

The task force, formed after a string of shootings earlier this spring, is headed by Newnan Councilmember Cynthia Jenkins. During the meeting, the members of the task force discussed a number of topics, including the recent Easter Egg Hunt program, an upcoming job fair and some ideas for possible summer events.

Georgia Family Connection’s Coweta County branch coordinator, Carol Prince, visited to tell members more about what Family Connection does. The purpose of the Georgia Family Connection, she said, is to work with residents in each county, collaborate with local charities and assistance groups, and focus on specific goals in the counties that need to be addressed.

According to the organization’s website, the group works with families to build stability and self-sufficiency, strengthen the community, and help parents earn GEDs and become employed. More information about the Coweta County Family Connection may be found at coweta.gafcp.org.

The task force members also discussed the recent Easter Egg Hunt they put together at the Central Educational Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Jenkins said more than 300 people – around 150 families – attended the event. Most families came from neighborhoods in Newnan, but some families also visited from out of the county, she said. Everyone who attended was asked to fill out their contact information so they could be included in future events.

One thing members of the task force noticed at the Easter Egg event, though, was that very few men older than 18 attended. Because of this, Jenkins said she would like to brainstorm for programs for the men, such as a basketball gathering inspired by Saint Smyrna Baptist Church. Saint Smyrna recently had its first “Midnight Basketball” event, and more than 60 people showed up to play and have a good time. Jenkins said it helped the church talk to the men and also sponsored father/son bonding.

The task force is also hoping to set up a job fair to assist convicted felons find jobs. They hope to gather multiple businesses for the fair and also help job-seekers with resume writing. The task force hopes to have the job fair in September or October of this year and help 30 or 40 convicted felons become employed.

To aid the community, Newnan applied for the Byrne Criminal Justice Grant. According to Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows, Newnan is competing against every other community that applied nationwide. If awarded, the grant would provide the city with $1.1 million, of which $100,000 would go toward studying programs to aid neighborhoods, $250,000 would go into the criminal justice departments, and the remaining funds would be distributed evenly to the city of Newnan and other service providers for the next three years.

Only seven of these grants are being awarded to communities in the U.S.

The task force members also discussed upcoming events for the community and plans for the summer. At the moment, the task force is still brainstorming on summer events that will give daily structured activity for the neighborhoods’ youngsters. Jenkins said that, without things to do every day, the kids get bored and could get into trouble. One idea is opening up the Winston Dowdell Academy Gym, but no summer camps have been put together yet. The task force plans to meet again in early June.



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