|Issue 9.76 |Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009 | Forward to your friends!|
THE RIPPLE EFFECT: A new Web site aims to teach kids volunteerism by matching talents with needs. Jeni Stephens and Jen Guynn in two months of operating the site have nearly 500 children enrolled in the program. See Today's Forum below.
:: Teaching volunteerism to kids
ELLIOTT BRACK'S PERSPECTIVE
:: Loss of confidence in county
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ROSWELL, Ga., Dec. 30, 2009 -- In the fall of 2008, two Atlanta mothers realized a need for an online resource to connect kids and families with age-appropriate volunteer opportunities and service projects in Atlanta. They established a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Pebble Tossers, Inc., with the mission to ignite a passion for volunteerism in youth by matching their talents, abilities, and interests with the needs of their community.
One year and thousands of hours later spent in research, database development and community outreach, the Pebble Tossers beta Website and Search Engine went live October 30. The site provides a selection of hundreds of service projects with over 60 local non-profits representing nine major cause areas: The Arts, Animals, Elderly, Environment, Families in Crisis, Homelessness, Hungry, Sick or Disabled Children, US Troops/Veterans.
With over 250 members registered in the first month of their pilot program, initial response to Pebble Tossers has been overwhelming. Children are finding fun, creative ways to make a difference in their communities, parents love the ease of use, and local organizations are expressing interest in being included in the Pebble Tossers database.
Society is placing increased emphasis on social responsibility and volunteerism. Schools and civic groups often require service hours from their youth. Yet astonishingly, there are no online resources that connect kids and families with age-appropriate volunteer opportunities in Metro Atlanta.
Though parents want their children to have community volunteering experiences, the reality is that many families are overscheduled, financially strapped, and generally stressed. Carving out family time to orchestrate a volunteer project with kids is adding yet another thing and can be quite daunting if you do not know where to start.
The Pebble Tossers Solution
Pebble Tossers fills this need, making community involvement fun for kids and easy for parents to plan. With free, online registration, members can search for a project, an organization, a cause they believe in, or they can use the Search Engine to get matched with projects based on their age, talents, abilities and interests. Once they choose a project and location, Pebble Tossers provides all the contact information and planning tools to make completing the project simple and straightforward.
Upon project completion, members record the actual hours spent and begin to build up a cumulative service hour log. This establishes a civic transcript, which can be used for civic and faith-based groups, high schools, and colleges.
Tossers 1.0 Launch
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Jeni Stephens has a background in high-tech product and on-line services marketing, with six years at NCR Corporation, and eight years at LexisNexis. She credits her early success is business with volunteering at a young age at Children's Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. She is a graduate from Wright State University and moved to Atlanta four years ago, and now resides in Roswell with her husband, Dave, and their four children.
Guynn's background includes administrative, organizational and marketing
experience, with two years with the Council for Quality Growth and eight
years at McGowan Properties, Inc. As a child, Jen was instilled with the
idea of "to whom much is given, of them much is required." She
has volunteer experience with the Junior League of Atlanta, The Impact!
Group and the American Cancer Society. An Atlanta native, she graduated
from Furman University, and resides in Dunwoody with her husband, Mike,
and their three children.
DEC. 30, 2009 -- About any way you look at it, you can't figure that Gwinnett County government had a good year. Mind you, we like to be optimistic, but we can't say much positive about our county government for 2009.
Not only that, but there are questions arising about how the county will bode in the future.
The main problem is that it appears that the lack of leadership on the part of county officials, both in elected and appointed offices, has given rise to a loss of confidence in county government. And most than anything else, that concerns us.
For this loss in confidence to come at a time when there are other severe problems, brought on by the economic recession, the problems are only confounded. With the anticipated reduction in the county tax revenues from lower valuations on both commercial and residential property, and loss in sales tax and other revenues, the possibility for continued county services at the current level is not good. This will only complicate the picture.
Even if the year 2010 finds a better climate for economic activity, including a rebounding of both home sales, new construction and retail sales, the county revenues will still lag behind what it has been in other years. (A uptick in tax revenues always is behind the rise in sales activities.)
But mainly, it's the confidence in government issue that most worries us.
One way out of the current revenue morass for county government we understand is being considered by county officials in 2010. They are considering asking Gwinnett County voters to approve a Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) of perhaps one or one-half percent sales tax. That revenue could go to operations of many of the infrastructure sites that have been constructed in the county through the SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) programs. By law, SPLOST programs can only fund the construction of buildings, roads, buying of parks, etc. Paying for the day-to-day operations of such sites must come from other sources.
Gwinnett has recouped an average of $10 million a month for the last 20-plus years for such infrastructure, through SPLOST programs, which by law, are sunsetted. That is, the collection of these sales tax revenues are for a specific time frame, normally four or five years. The county must then ask for the citizen's approval for continue sales tax collection.
Now to our main concern: will Gwinnett citizens continue to vote for SPLOST programs (for government and for education ) in the future? And more immediately in the coming year, should it be proposed, will Gwinnett citizens vote to pay more in sales tax for a LOST program?
Right now, we doubt if a LOST could pass the muster of voters. And we think that the re-funding of SPLOST programs could also be in doubt, at least at the county government level.
Happily, there seems to be continued confidence in the ability of the Gwinnett School Board to deliver outstanding education for more than its 160,000 students. We just wish we could say that about county government, too.
Therefore, out hope for Gwinnett County Government for 2010: to see a return to the days of confidence in county operations. That would be a big step. Achieving it will not be easy. But we can wish.
The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you at no cost to readers. Now celebrating the 25th anniversary of its flagship campus, Gwinnett Medical Center is a not-for-profit healthcare network providing award-winning healthcare services to the Gwinnett community and beyond. Campuses in both Duluth and Lawrenceville provide acute care, outpatient services, orthopedic and neuroscience specialty care as well as a full continuum of wellness services. Digital imaging is the standard of care at all GMC facilities including the newest imaging center in north Gwinnett's Hamilton Mill area. In 2008, GMC's 4,300 associates and 800 physicians served more than 400,000 patients. Gwinnett Medical Center's incredible vision for the future is to transform healthcare. To learn more, visit www.gwinnettmedicalcenter.org.
Bring your old Christmas Tree, stripped of all decorations, to one of several drop off sites around Gwinnett County and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful will turn them into mulch! It's been a tradition in Gwinnett for 25 years!
Deadline approaches for SE Railway Museum photo contest
Southeastern Railway Museum announces its first photo competition and exhibit. Deadline for entry is January 16, 2010, with the exhibit and judging from February 1 through March 28, 2010.
The exhibit will be at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. It is located at 3595 Buford Highway.
The rules of the contest are simple. Photographs must have been made at the Southeastern Railway Museum within the last two years. More details and entry forms are available on the museum Web site, www.southeasternrailwaymuseum.org , or at the museum. All entries become the property of the museum.
Entries will be on exhibit and visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite entry during the exhibit (February and March). In addition to the judged entries, there will be a "people's choice" award during the museum's Caboose Days event April 10, 2010.
Georgia author to hold book signing in Norcross Jan. 16
Meet Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of"The Paris Vendetta," at the Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center on Saturday, January 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Seating is limited. The event is free and open to the public. The author will host a discussion and signing for his new book. Books will be available for purchase from Eagle Eye Book Shop.
Berry is the author of The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 37 languages and sold in 50 countries. He lives on the Georgia coast and is now at work on his next novel. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have founded History Matters, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving heritage.
Injury prevention subject of clinic at stadium on Jan. 16
Medical Center will host an injury prevention clinic at Gwinnett Stadium
on Saturday, January 16, 2010. The event will educate parents and coaches
on how best to protect their young athletes from baseball-related injuries.
the clinic is $15 per participant, and registration, which closes January
13, is by phone at 678-442-5000. The first 50 to register will receive
a pair of tickets to a 2010 Gwinnett Braves game. For more information,
contact Tim Simmons at email@example.com
John Slappey is the new president of the Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors (NAMAR) for 2010. Slappey is a fourth generation Realtor, who, over the years, has been involved with real estate activities including at the state level. He is an agent with Peggy Slappey Properties. His goals for 2010 are to make NAMAR a leader in technology advancement, fiscal responsibility and leadership development.
President-elect for 2010 is Jana Waycaster. She also grew up in the Real Estate industry. She says: "I grew up seeing how important it is to be involved in things you believe in! I want to be involved and make a difference. She is currently associated with Prudential Georgia in Hoschton.
The treasurer for 2010 is Pat Hackley, who has . more than 25 years in the business. She is associated with REmax Suburban Atlanta in Norcross. Immediate Past President, Carol Guse, will serve as the Secretary for 2010.
Established in 1969, The Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors promotes professionalism and ethical real estate practices. One of the largest Realtor associations in Metro Atlanta, the association is dedicated to the real estate industry and private property rights. For more information, visit www.NAMAR.org.
Study: School dropouts ultimately cost taxpayers a bundle
Georgia's 38,000 high school dropouts in the class of 2007 will cost taxpayers $4.8 billion over their lifetime due to costs associated with incarceration, Medicaid and other government programs, according to a new study released by the Friedman Foundation and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
Native Georgians were also more than twice as likely to drop out of high school as those who migrated to Georgia, according to the study, entitled, "The Economic and Fiscal Costs of Failing to Reform K-12 Education in Georgia." The study, released recently, found that Georgia's graduation rate is lower than many have estimated, at 65 percent, and that each new class of dropouts costs taxpayers $95 million annually for the rest of their lives.
Dropouts earn $7,200 less a year than high school graduates and far less than college graduates. In addition, high school dropouts have twice the rate of imprisonment, higher rates of addiction, more reliance on government assistance including Medicaid and a higher percentage of children out of wedlock.
Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice , says: "Not only does staying in school make a difference to the individual, but it makes a huge difference to taxpayers."
Brian Gottlob, the study's author, emphasized the real world impact of the high school diploma. "Because so many of Georgia's young people fail to graduate from high school, a high percentage of native Georgians have not been able to contribute or fully participate in the fruits of Georgia's new economy," he said. "The inability of so many young citizens to realize their full potential imposes tremendous costs on all of Georgia's citizens."
The full study is available at http://www.gppf.org/pub/education/DropoutStudy.pdf.
By the end of the 1996 Olympics informal family networks were well established across the state, ensuring that Latin American immigration would escalate in the following years. Mid-sized Georgia cities like Athens, Augusta, Macon, and Savannah each saw large Latino communities develop in the decade after the Olympics. In dozens of counties across the state Latin American restaurants, tiendas (shops), and supermercados (supermarkets) became a common sight, whereas they had been nonexistent previously.
By the mid-20th century agricultural production in south Georgia, which had long relied upon a stream of predominantly African American East Coast migrant labor, also underwent a transition toward heavier employment of Latin American immigrants. The impact of permanent rather than temporary Latino settlement has been especially noticeable in the smaller and more insular rural communities in the southern part of the state.
Within older immigrant destinations, clear signs of social mobility have also become apparent. While Atlanta's DeKalb County continued to attract immigrants into the twenty-first century, Latinos who settled in DeKalb earlier but had prospered over the years began to buy homes in the wealthier counties of Cobb and Gwinnett, leaving behind the immigrant enclaves where they had made their start.
In Gainesville hundreds of decidedly middle-class homes were built in 2006 and marketed exclusively to upwardly mobile immigrants who had begun their careers in the city's poultry plants. Whereas Latinos had previously been contained within a select few industries across the state, by the 21st century it was clear that immigrant laborers had entered nearly every large state industry.
Federal enforcement of immigration law and the deportation of undocumented workers hardly ever occurred in the decade after the Olympic games, but crackdowns occurred during economic recessions, when immigrants were placed in competition with native-born workers. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., hostility toward immigrants in Georgia markedly increased, and a number of state politicians rose to prominence with anti-immigrant campaigns. As only a minority of recent immigrants were involved in state politics, anti-immigrant voices often went unopposed.
(To be continued)
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Editor's Note: The next edition of GwinnettForum will be back on normal schedule on January 5. --eeb
"There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas."
Those interested in the history of Gwinnett need to know that the recently published book: Gwinnett: A Little Above Atlanta, has sold fast, with the first editions about sold out. Get yours before they're gone. Go to www.elliottbrack.com to order, or buy the book at a local bookstore shown on the site.
The books are available at:
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