“I’m from the Government and I am here to help you.” If that does not strike you with fear, then you are different from most of us. As a general rule, the government adds layers of bureaucracy and rules and regulations and seldom “helps” us achieve much. Typically we are all better off if we can “help ourselves.”
Our little community of Hawkinsville is celebrating. Madison Conner, a 15 year old runaway, has been found and is safe. While I write this, her parents are on their way to pick up their daughter. And this celebrating has many in our community talking about “What can we do for our young people?” It a discussion that is held often by all segments of our population.
Although I indicated that the government seldom helps, I did want to take a moment to reflect on some ways / ideas / thoughts that are both government and private that involve this concept of “What can we do for our young people?”
GOVERNMENT: The City/County together contribute over $150,000 / year toward our local Recreation program. We have an awesome rec program serving over 300 children in our community. We have great facilities enhanced in recent years through SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and more facilities being planned and built now. I realize that this program does not and can not serve everyone and the location of the facilities is less than optimum, but it is a resource and it DOES serve hundreds of children in a very positive way.
We also have James Colson Park located off of 6th street. You can drive by most any time and see hundreds of children, youth and adults “hanging out” at Colson Park. The city has recently been awarded a grant that will allow us to add some playground equipment at this park.
We are in the process of applying for state grant funds that will allow us to build a skateboard park in Hawkinsville. We plan on adding this park to some donated land right next to the PHP building on Highway 341 North. Our Youth have recently signed petitions with over 700 names in support of this park. If all goes as planned, 2014 might see this facility built with little or no local tax dollars involved.
The City and County both have recently enhanced their river walk areas. Again, while not devoted to “Youth”, these river walk areas will serve all people while catering to FAMILIES.
Our local 4H club is bustling with activity.
The city is a major supporter of our local Arts Council. While some will argue that the concerts provided are more focused on adults and out of the price range of our youth, I have to mention that efforts ARE made through the Arts Council to bring in events that are youth focused. The Arts Council hosts yearly events that are field trips from the schools dealing with the performing arts. The local Talent Show is held yearly showcasing local and mostly young musical artists. Recently, a country singer (Gannon Adams) was brought in and performed for Free at the school system and then offered a relatively inexpensive concert at the Opera House.
The City helps sponsor local festivals such as the Harness Festival and the Harvest Festival. While only a few times a year, they do add to the mix of “What is there to do in Hawkinsville?”
We have a locally run “Family Connections” office in Hawkinsville. This state grant funded office provides many functions to our families in Pulaski County. From a mentoring program to yearly events such as the upcoming “Reality Check” (a budget and planning real life scenario that all area High School students will attend March 27th.) and “Teen Maze” which helps our youth understand that their decisions will have consequences. Last years Teen Maze was a huge success with over 700 teens going through the maze that was run by over 200 community volunteers. Family Connections also helps with Parenting Seminars and other events all with our TEENS in mind.
Our Police Department for years has sponsored an annual Fishing Rodeo.
The Archway Partnership (a public/private funded entity) that has helped with the local “Hoops League”. This is a basketball league for our youth that focuses on so much more than basketball. Life skills are a priority and this has been extremely well received in our community. Archway is also helping us to investigate the option of having a “Boys and Girls Club” started in our community.
Our local school system allows many clubs and groups to meet and promote within the school. There are enough extra-curricular activities to please most of our youth if they would only choose to participate.
I know there is more. The “Government” is actually trying to help this situation. But it of course takes more than government….
PHP (People Helping People) is a private group that is also focusing on our Youth. They have recently purchased a large building out on Highway 341 and have been sponsoring Youth concerts and other youth focused events. This group also purchased the old Hospital and brought us the Haunted Hospital last October. Pool Tables, Foos Ball Tables, Table Tennis and other activities are readily available. An indoor batting cage is even being built there. (and our new skateboard park land is being donated by this group). Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, our community needs to get behind this group and help promote, push, and enhance these efforts.
CHURCHES in our area provide LOTS of activities for our Youth. From local gatherings to annual mission trips, our churches are a fundamental (and under utilized) source for GOOD for our youth. Our churches also sponsor “5th Quarters” which are gathering events staged after home football games.
COMMERCIAL ENTITIES: Recently Ga WebServices and ComSouth partnered to bring Willie Raines to our community. Willie puts on “Bullying Seminars” and did a live event at the local High School. Our local Businesses are willing to help for worthwhile causes.
PEOPLE: I often hear of a family that “invites everyone in”. They welcome their children and their friends into their homes, thus providing a safe environment in which to “Hang Out.”
I applaud these recent discussions about “What can we do for our youth?”. This post is simply meant to encourage us to not overlook what we already are striving to do. Let’s build on our positives and correct our negatives. Let’s make the focus on the YOUTH and not our individual difference of opinions. It’s not about MY idea winning or YOUR idea winning. It’s about developing locals and activities that will help reach ALL of our community’s youth and keep them safe and entertained. We’ll never have all the answers. We’ll never reach all the youth. But those are never good reasons not to do the best that we can!
What are YOUR thoughts?