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Thumbs Up! - July 29, 2013

Manswell Peterson has the gift of storytelling and, fortunately for readers, has published his stories in book form. In fact, Peterson has had three straight books go to No.1 on Amazon, likely a first for an independently published author. His first book, "One Last Cry" was in print before the author realized just how poorly it was edited. It was not, however, a problem that could not be remedied. With the sales of that first run, Peterson paid to have it edited properly and re-released it as "One Last Cry: Revisited." From there, well, things have gone from good to really good. Just last Tuesday it was announced at a press conference that a dream 14 years in the making was about to come true. Peterson's "The Mustard Seed" will soon be in film production. Meanwhile, as the program coordinator of the criminal justice department at Darton State College, this busy man indeed has the faith spoken about in the Book of Matthew. "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

The Racial Healing Reading Club met at Our Daily Bread for the first time on July 19. Funded by a corporate grant from Kellogg, the group's goal is to have open, honest dialog about racial relations right here in Dougherty County. Harriet Hollis, project coordinator, said that the group will explore how much all people are alike and not focus so much on differences. The book discussed was Michael Weber's "My Black Family, My White Privilege." Everyone, and that really means everyone, is invited to read the book and attend the meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 13 with a venue not yet solidified. As the date nears, call (229) 430-9870 for the time and location. Become part of the solution to what ails this city.

Anyone that has resided in this area for the last few years and makes any attempt to keep up with local issues is aware that grant money is not always wisely spent. Not so with a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant awarded to the Albany Area YMCA. Last October, an after-school program was started at Magnolia Elementary School to serve 125 children who were academically unsuccessful. The chief objectives were to improve academic performance of participating children in math and reading. For the students who regularly attended the program, 82 percent met or exceeded the state standard in reading and 84 percent met or exceeded the state standard for math. Another sign that the children were more engaged in learning is the fact that 91 percent had no disciplinary referrals during the school year. Can you say "money well spent?"

Seven dedicated and determined families have now completed the entire Strive2Thrive poverty-fighting program. The recent graduates of the program are now 100 percent self-sufficient. Graduates are on stable and continually improving financial ground. Some have gotten a GED, some attended classes, others continue to work on their education and training. Living arrangements have gotten better, and some even have a car now. The light at the end of the poverty tunnel can seem extremely distant and dim at times, but with the help of a boatload of volunteers, it now shines fully on these families. One participant described Strive2Thrive this way: "Everybody wants to help you pull the wagon." These seven families now have plans, hopes and dreams again. Congratulations!