Community service day raises awareness for Leadership participants
by Matt Shinall
Dec 14, 2012 | 1678 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leadership Bartow
Glen Merritt removes a door at Bartow Family Resources so it can be painted. Merritt was participating in Leadership Bartow Community Service Day. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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From Cartersville’s Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter to an orphanage in Liberia, Bartow County residents are making a difference around the world.

Participants in the 2012-2013 class of Leadership Bartow took part Wednesday in a program designed to raise awareness and spur action for local nonprofits.

Representatives from Bartow Family Resources, Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter and Good Shepherd Foundation led participants through their operations, shared the organizations’ goals and missions and explained how others can help, either through donations or volunteer efforts.

“Our goal was to give participants an overview,” said Woodland High School Principal Melissa Williams, event organizer for Wednesday’s program. “Because some are already involved in community service and others would like to be. So we wanted to give them an overview of what our needs are in the community and how they can help.

“I heard someone say that they knew there were needs but didn’t know the magnitude of needs.”

Each year, Leadership Bartow participants tour the county highlighting a different industry or sector each month. For this year’s community service day, class members heard from community leaders and nonprofit executives about the challenges and opportunities facing the community.

For Jessica Mitcham, executive director of the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, having community members tour the organization’s facilities helps teach others how the shelter operates and how they help clients get back on their feet.

“It’s great for people to come see us. I think we see information about what it looks like to serve people who are homeless on TV or the movies, but I feel what happens here at Good Neighbor looks a lot different,” Mitcham said. “I think it’s important for people to see the shelter, be inside the house, hear about how many of our guests find employment while they’re here, save money while they’re here, move into permanent housing. A lot of our guests are able to get out of being homeless and be self sufficient when they leave.”

In a panel discussion, guest speakers talked to the need for cooperation and partnership between service agencies. Panel members included representatives from Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, Bartow Collaborative, the Northwest Georgia Community Foundation and United Way of Bartow County. A recurring theme of discussion included the number of agencies competing for resources within the same community.

Speaking to the issue of financial support, Mitcham explained the importance of local involvement and awareness efforts.

“Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter would not be here if the community did not make it possible,” Mitcham said. “I think lots of people, when they hear about homeless shelters and other programs like that really assume that they are largely government funded, but just get 5 percent government funding of any kind.

“We are a United Way partner agency. The work United Way does to reach out to people to participate in payroll campaigns is a huge part of our budget. Then, the board of directors and I will raise about 80 percent of our budget here locally between businesses that participate in our business sponsorship program, churches that give, individuals who commit to the shelter and make monthly donations and through our special events.”

Following the panel discussion, Leadership Bartow participants put in some work at area nonprofits. Groups split up to work where help was needed, packing grocery sacks at Bartow Christmas Coalition, organizing donations at Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter and completing renovation projects at Bartow Family Resources.

As a Leadership Bartow participant and community service committee member, Regions Bank Branch Manager Jeff Moore signed up to help with Wednesday’s program so that he could learn about resources within Bartow County. Moore began working in Cartersville about a year ago and sought, through Leadership Bartow, to get engaged with community service efforts.

“As far as the charities and nonprofits around, I honestly wasn’t that familiar with what they all did,” Moore said. “That’s why I chose to be on this committee, because I wanted to learn more about local nonprofits and find out how I could contribute, even if just by volunteering my time. I hope the rest of the group was able to learn the same things I did.”

Ending the day’s program was James Jarrett and Daryl Roberts, Bartow County businessmen who followed a calling to help rebuild an orphanage in Liberia. Beginning in 2008, Orphan Aid Liberia has since built several new steel buildings to house, educate and care for the orphans of Balama, Liberia. Today, the local outreach is helping children finish school while organizers raise funds for scholarships, new latrines and a guest house for missionaries.