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Albany Chamber encourages membership, networking
An environment where everyone is made important

ALBANY — The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce provided an opportunity for members to network and learn more about what the chamber has to offer during a Breakfast with the Chamber event Tuesday.

‘Twas a morning of delicious food and great people, the brewing coffee drawing early risers’ attention as participants mingled and chatted about their latest projects.

As a first-timer, I realized that these businessmen and -women were just everyday people trying to make a difference in our small/big world. An awakening came over me as I walked around, taking a glimpse at the smiles of newly awakened faces. Early in the morning, I would expect to run into a grinch or two.

However, that was not the case. To my surprise, everyone was humble and proud to talk about where they do business. I thought I’d join the crowd by sharing the same fulfillment that I get at work.

After everyone was settled and comfortable, the director of communications at Southern Point Staffing — and a chamber ambassador — Brewer Turley offered insight on what the chamber entails and offers to businesspeople who are interested in becoming members.

The opportunities the chamber offers to its members include extensive exposure, credibility, networking, committee luncheons, advocacy, meeting space, lunch-and-learn events, and a business web page, among many.

Business development officer for Albany Community Together Tonita McKnight and Daniel Gillian, president and CEO of the Albany Area YMCA, both spoke about what brought to the chamber from their businesses’ perspective. McKnight touched on successful ways to achieve a business loan with Albany Community Together, while Gillian gave information about Albany’s Veteran Affairs.

The information was very much current and relevant to nearly everyone in the room, whether someone was interested in making an investment in their business or in themselves.

For more information on becoming a member of the Albany Area Chamber or participating in one of its events, visit

Middle school boys forge ties with role models

ALBANY — A group of middle school students learned a lesson in R-E-S-P-E-C-T from their elders on Tuesday, and also how to put a Windsor knot in a necktie at the fifth annual Ties That Bind program.

The event brought middle school-age boys, many of whom don’t have a father figure to teach them and provide a role model, together with mentors at the Albany Civic Center.

“I think that this is a good experience for young men here because there are role models here,” Jordan Lewis, 10, told a reporter. “Me, I don’t have a dad in my life at this time. I think this was a good experience for kids who don’t have a dad in their life.”

The mentors in attendance represented a cross-section of professions from medical to business to military, law enforcement and government officials. The boys in attendance are involved in youth programs at the Albany Boys & Girls Clubs, the city of Albany’s Recreation & Parks Department or Choosing Healthy Activities and Promoting Safety, usually referred to C.H.A.M.P.S.

“I say the program is great because it shows us how we should act around other people and how to make women feel comfortable,” Daiveon Davis, 11, said of Tuesday’s luncheon, where the men and boys shared hamburgers and conversation. “It shows us how we need to have respect.”

The event is part of Men’s Health Week, said Darrell Sabbs, community benefits coordinator at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

“We are holding this annual event to help empower and highlight the importance of men being with boys,” Sabbs told The Herald. “Our saying is: ‘In order to be a man, you’ve got to see a man.’”

Mothers do a lot in nurturing their sons, he said, but at the point when they’re about the age of the boys in the audience they have a desire to build a relationship with an adult male role model.

“If he can’t find it inside the home, he will search for it outside of the home,” he said. “Today, they will learn how to tie a tie, but even more importantly, they will learn the model of caring, sharing and loving.”

The speaker for the event, Frank Wilson, director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute, told the audience that there are rules one must follow, and if not, there are consequences. As a youth in Moultrie, he said, he attended segregated schools where the books were old and there was no ride to campus.

“It bothers me that every news channel has one of us, looks like you, in that news story who didn’t follow the rules,” he said. “In life, there are rules. You cannot get ahead by showing your behind.”

Feeding the Valley food bank to take over counties release by Second Harvest

ALBANY — Officials with Feeding the Valley food bank announced late Monday that the organization would take over Calhoun, Dougherty, Lee and Terrell counties, the four southwest Georgia counties released recently by Second Harvest of South Georgia.

Second Harvest announced that it would leave the area citing a rift with community leaders, a reference to allegations made by state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, as one of the causes for leaving, at the end of May.

“As many of you know, some community leaders in the Albany area have claimed that Second Harvest is not adequately serving the community and have demanded that we leave,” a news release by Second Harvest read. “Over the last 90 days, we have made every good-faith effort to address all the issues that were raised to us, but our critics are still calling for another food bank to replace us. This is frustrating and disheartening for our whole team.”

Sims and officials from Second Harvest were in talks with Feeding America, the national agency that both Second Harvest and Feeding the Valley serve under, to find an agency to fill the gap created by Second Harvest leaving.

“Feeding the Valley serves several counties that are in Freddie Powell Sims’ service area already,” said Danah Craft, executive director of the Georgia Food Bank Association. “When Freddie became concerned about the issues that she surfaced in the news reports that (The Albany Herald did), we were connecting her to Feeding America.

“We were aware of the situation, working collaboratively behind the scenes together, trying to find the right resolution for it. We’ve all been working together to try to find the right resolution for this, and I’m very excited that Feeding the Valley is going to be serving those four counties. It’s a really great operation; it’s a great food bank.”

Feeding the Valley has a 31,000-square-foot warehouse in Midland with branch locations in LaGrange and Cuthbert currently. President/CEO Frank Sheppard said the organization will work with Second Harvest to ensure there is not a gap in service for the food insecure in the four additional counties.

“We are committed to working with the community leaders, the food bank agency network, and donors in these four counties to build the hunger relief network the community needs,” Sheppard said. “We will coordinate with Second Harvest of South Georgia to ensure there is no gap in service for the people of these communities. We are all part of the Feeding America network, and we share a common goal to provide nutritious food to vulnerable families in need.”

Feeding the Valley is planning an initial Mobile Food Pantry distribution in the coming weeks. Additional details will be announced soon.

“I commend the Board of Directors and management team at Feeding the Valley for their vision and commitment to feed vulnerable families in these four counties,” Sims said. “We asked them to engage the community in determining how best to serve the area, and they have already started that process. I am committed to my constituents, and I will continue to support Feeding the Valley as we move forward together. I would like to thank the Georgia Food Bank Association, Feeding America, and especially the Feeding America CEO, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, for their partnership and their commitment to our community.”

Feeding the Valley recently celebrated 35 years of service to its member communities. In addition to operating a Kids Café program that delivers after-school and summer meals to children, Feeding the Valley works with more than 275 churches and nonprofit organizations to provide groceries and nutritious meals to thousands of people in their current 14-county service area.

“Our partner agencies provide the outreach and delivery channel to feed insecure families and individuals,” Sheppard said. “These agencies are churches, food pantries, homeless shelters, after-school programs, senior centers, youth programs and others. We are all part of a team trying to feed and empower people who are struggling to put nutritious food on their table and lead healthy lives. We look forward to working with the agency network in Dougherty, Lee, Calhoun and Terrell counties as well.”

Albany board OKs CDBG grants for nonprofits

ALBANY — Four Albany nonprofits were approved by the Albany City Commission Tuesday to receive some $75,000 total in HUD-sponsored Public Service Community Development Block Grants

Liberty House, Dougherty County Family Literacy, Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany and Quest for Change were the four agencies among six applicants deemed to have sufficiently completed the application process. The commission accepted the recommendation of Community and Economic Development staff during the board’s Tuesday-morning meeting.

Commissioners also got an update from Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Rachelle Beasley on the agency’s transition from its affiliation with the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce to its development as an independent agency. Beasley told commissioners the city had gotten a significant return on investment with CVB.

“For your $725,000 investment (via hotel-motel taxes), the city received $244 million in” tourism-related funding, Beasley said. The CVB director said the transition to independence had been a “seamless” one.

Beasley also noted during her presentation that hotels and motels in the city had increased occupancy rates by 17.6% over the past year, to 75%. She said goals for the coming year include new signage and identifying kiosks, an updated marketing strategy — including a “Three Amazing Adventures in One Awesome Albany” for the Thronateeska Heritage Center, Flint RiverQuarium and Chehaw Park, all three now managed by Tommy Gregors — and a tourism research study.

The commission also approved the use of $1,287,852.78 in SPLOST VII funds for upgrades of portable and mobile radios and control stations. Albany Police Chief Michael Persley and Albany Fire Chief Cedric Scott endorsed the upgrades.

“Motorola stopped making the model radios we use now in 2018,” Persley said. “Some of the ones we still have in service are 15 years old. We need to move forward with this upgrade.”

As part of the new contract with Motorola, the city received 30 body camera units that will be worn by police officers.

The City Commission also approved:

♦ A $382,800 contract with Labor Finders of Albany for temporary labor;

♦ An easement agreement with the Thronateeska Heritage Center as part of the Downtown Connector portion of the Flint River Trail System;

♦ Re-adopted the five principles that govern the conduct of city officials to remain a Georgia Municipal Association Certified City of Ethics.

Ta-Riyah, West Town Elementary 

Ta-Riyah, West Town Elementary