Rallies encourage filling out U.S. Census forms

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- Whether it was in Albany or Lee County Saturday the word went out -- Be counted.

Information on the coming U.S. 2010 Census was given out at a 10 a.m. community meeting and a 12:30 p.m. block party in Albany. Lee County High School volunteers spread out at about 3:15 p.m. to plant green and white "Be Counted. Lee County Counts" signs throughout the county.

"The U.S. Census counts take place every 10 years," John Howard, Ward 1 Albany city commissioner said. "Your participation will help the city of Albany receive the necessary funding that will improve the quality of life for all citizens."

In 2000 62 percent of the Dougherty County population sent in their forms. The city did far worse in its response. It had a return rate of 56 percent.

The census counts are used to determine federal spending in an area for schools, roads and bridges, food stamps and a host of other federal programs. Those not responding are probably the ones who most need government assistance, Howard said.

In order to attract interest from younger people to the census, Howard and Dorothy Hubbard, Ward 2 city commissioner threw a block party at the Shackleford Shopping Center on Oglethorpe Boulevard.

The block party featured DJ Dwayne from Clear Channel's urban music radio channels.

"Filling out and returning the forms can help a lot of people," Dwayne said. "We have five stations with a variety of listeners getting the word out to help people."

With free pizza, coffee and Census 2010 bags for people, the block party attracted people of different ages during the event.

"We need it to get us the money and help we all need, black and white," Ty Byrd, 24, said. "Once they get the count they can give us help."

Ricky Hicks, 11, liked the pizza and said he could see that people should pay attention to the census.

"It looks to me like it is important," Hicks said. "It must be important for them to be out here."

Howard Brown of the Albany-Dougherty Complete Count Committee said the block party included distribution of posters to the businesses in the shopping center. The idea is to keep the census in people's minds so they will fill out and return the forms, he added.

Keeping the census in resident's awareness sent more than 50 Lee County High School volunteers out to post signs along the county rights of way along streets.

Lee County had 65 percent of its census forms mailed back in 2000. The hope is to have 95 percent reply this year, said Rick Muggridge, a county commissioner working with the We County Lee County Counts group.

The students eagerly went out in groups of three and four to put signs up reminding people to fill out and send in their census forms after they begin arriving in mid-March.

Jenna Luke, 17, carried the map of sign placement locations for her group, which included Stuart Price, Helen Chancey, and Ankur Bhavsar all 17.

"We are all in Mr. Davis AP (advanced placement) language class," Luke said. "He inspired us to volunteer after we learned how vital a count is for the progress of the community."