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Thumbs Up! - June 17, 2013

Perhaps the only thing worse than not having a gun when one is needed is having one and not knowing how to safely and properly use one. Thanks to the Albany Police Department, there is no reason for an Albany resident age 21 and older to not learn about handling a firearm safely. On Saturday, a firearm safety course will be held at the Law Enforcement Center from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The course is free and will include time on the firing range on Turner Field Road. Space for the class is limited, so call (229) 483-6298 to reserve a spot and get more information.

Look up the word determined and one just might find a picture of Robert Skinner. The Albany State University coach has years of experience working with the young people in this community through the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) and was determined not to take 2013 off. Funding simply was not available through the local government and Skinner really did not want the children unable to pay a fee to miss out. And so, he told the story of what NYSP is all about to anyone who would listen and asked for help. Help is just what he got. Individuals, churches, businesses and corporations in the community donated generously and the program hosted over 350 kids ages 9-15 on opening day with more to come. Activities include basketball, tennis, swimming, math and science, all of which are much better for developing productive citizens than watching TV and/or roaming the streets. Skinner coaches women’s basketball, volleyball and softball at ASU but always makes time for the young folks in Albany. The budget goal is still a bit short and any donation will be appreciated.

Through June 29, the Albany Area Arts Council’s annual juried art show and sale is going on at Thronateeska Science Museum. It is a great place to get out of the heat and enjoy 125 pieces of artwork including paintings, photography and sculptures. The talent is quite impressive, even to the untrained eye.

Plans to bring a Paula Deen museum to town have definitely been met with a mixture of responses. There are those that say it won’t work, it is a waste of time and money, etc. Fortunately for those gloom-and-doom thinkers, it will not take any of their time or money to make it work. It is businesswoman B.J. Fletcher that has put her own money into the purchase of Deen’s childhood home and, with the full support of the museum’s namesake, will no doubt be successful in the endeavor. In the words of Carlton Fletcher (no relation), those believing B.J. will get discouraged before the museum can open, “obviously they don’t know the woman.” Just watch and see what happens next.

It was a grand day for Albany when more than 30 suspected gang members were indicted by a Dougherty County Grand Jury on Oct. 11, 2011. One of those suspects, however, managed to flee the area and remain at large for quite some time. It was on June 3 that William Courtney Johnson’s freedom came to an end. Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office deputies caught up with the suspected gang member and he now resides at the jail. Charges are many and vary from robbery by force to aggravated assault to rioting in a penal institution. The courts will decide this case but meanwhile, the community is safer and for that, we can all be thankful.

Gary Latham saved two disabled people from a burning home in Americus last winter. Six months later, the same man won $500,000 with a Fantasy Five lottery ticket. It is impossible to know if one event had anything to do with the other but it’s always good to hear such stories. Congratulations, Mr. Latham.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board