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Lee County Veterans Day 5K set for Nov. 9
Proceeds to go to benefit Nine Line Foundation

LEESBURG — The second Lee County Veterans Day 5K is planned in Leesburg on Nov. 9.

The event includes a 5K run, a one-mile fun run and a family-friendly environment with games, raffle and various vendors on site at 122 Starksville Road. Through the sales of runner registrations and T-shirts, funds are being raised to assist south Georgia veterans and their families.

Maureen Price, the event’s organizer, is the wife of a veteran. She said 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Nine Line Foundation in Savannah, a nonprofit dedicated to meeting the financial and specialized needs of severely injured soldiers and their families.

Price said she is in the process of ramping up community support, ranging from sponsorships to items for the raffle via donations by businesses.

“I am still trying to reach out to local businesses and business owners,” she said.

Price said she is anticipating there being coloring sheets and thank-you cards children can fill out for troops overseas, as well as a mini obstacle course. The 5K starts at 9 a.m., with the one-mile event kicking off 10 minutes later.

The cost to register for the 5K is $25 and $5 for the one-mile.

“If you register ahead of time, you are more likely to get a T-shirt,” Price said. “I have ordered extras to sell, but it depends on how many runners show up.”

Price is touching base with more veterans organizations, businesses and media this year to help the event grow. From last year’s 5K, she was able to donate $1,000 to the foundation.

She said she is on track to get a more healthy support base and is hopeful for a strong turnout on Nov. 9.

“My husband has been a veteran for 17 years, and I always told him I wanted to do something with veterans,” Price said. “We kind of have a slow momentum, but it has been growing.”

Support for the cause has been shown on the event’s Facebook page, and veterans organizations have been helping to spread the word. Price said people are welcome to simply show up at the site and walk around.

The event this year is in a different location from last year, but the route of the 5K remains about the same. From the starting point, it wraps around Lee County Middle School West, Lee County Fire Department, Kinchafoonee Primary School and the Butterfly Kisses park back to the starting point.

Price said she has a long-term plan for the event.

“My dream outcome is to keep it going and establish my own veterans organization,” she said. “I am hoping slowly it will grow just a little bit.”

Through this organization, Price said there may be another way for veterans to get transportation to and from their doctors appointments. The medical needs are both physical and mental and among a population which has been trained to handle a lot.

“They don’t want to be a burden if they are a 21-year-old and a veteran or an 82-year-old and a veteran,” Price said. “They should not have to dig (to meet their health care needs). To me, it is the least we can do.”

It is never too late to donate, she said.

“Any help would be greatly appreciated,” Price said.

Find more information, go to the event’s Facebook page. Register for the race or donate to the cause by going to runsignup.com/Race/GA/Leesburg/LeeCountyVeteransDay5k.

Price can be contacted for additional information at leecountyveterans5k@gmail.com.

Albany mayoral candidate Tracy Taylor wants to bring jobs, hope back to city

Editor’s Note: Final in a 12-part series about the candidates seeking elected office in Albany’s Nov. municipal election.

ALBANY — For Albany mayoral candidate Tracy Taylor, his candidacy speaks to adversity in the community.

As one of six black candidates in the seven-person contest, it isn’t his race that Taylor is referring to. It’s his political affiliation.

“Even though it is a nonpartisan race, I am proud to be a Republican in this time of history,” he said. “By being the first African-American to chair the Dougherty County Republican Party, it reflects my tenacity in thinking of true changes on all levels, whether or not it is an unpopular decision. I think people are waking up to diversity.”

Like most of his six opponents who face off in the Nov. 5 municipal election, Taylor, who works in Waycross as a firefighter, identified crime as the No. 1 issue facing the city.

He did not place any blame on the Albany Police Department but said that agency needs help in order to cut down on violent and property crimes in the city. The department is facing a shortage in manpower and is nearly two dozen officers short of full staffing.

Taylor said he thinks one potential solution is introducing a “part-time program” to help fill holes in shifts. Under his proposal, a certified officer in another city who has available time would work a shift in Albany.

“I would increase manpower to our local law enforcement agencies by incorporating a part-time program and helping our department actively seek well-qualified officers for full-time and part-time positions,” Taylor said.

The candidate said he also would work to increase police presence in communities where police precincts have been closed in recent years. Part of that would involve seeking state and federal policing grants.

“I would actively (work) to obtain mobile command units we can place in crime-infested areas to have fast response times and to be a deterrent by having a show of force and being visible in those areas,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he also would like to enact some measures to protect first responders, not only police officers but all first responders. That would include protecting paramedics and firefighters by providing body vests that would offer protection from gunfire.

Paramedics and firefighters often arrive at dangerous scenes before police, said Taylor, who referenced some instances in the nation where a shooter lured first responders by setting fires and then ambushed them.

Taylor also supports having two officers in the same car so they can provide backup.

“For example, I talked to an office who had a call to a burglary as (another) officer got a domestic violence call,” he said. “He was forced to abandon that burglary call to back hthe other officer up because of the danger his partner faced on answering that domestic-violence call.”

With roughly a third of the city’s inhabitants living in poverty, economic development and addressing the income divide is another issue that candidates have raised.

Taylor said he thinks his relationship with Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, will benefit Albany. He pointed to a recent project in Bainbridge as an example, and said the city should work with the governor to get in line for a future project.

“The gun manufacturer Taurus that moved into Bainbridge is hiring up to 300 workers and pumping $85 million worth of infrastructure in that community,” Taylor said.

Bringing companies that are looking for workers into a relationship with Albany Technical College and Albany State University is another key, he said.

“We’re going to have to attract manufacturing jobs that are suitable for our work force through Albany Technical College,” he said. “We have students who are certified CDL drivers, electricians, plumbers, welders, etc. that would help maintain the economy and grow our tax base.

“We have to realize we’re not connected to a major highway or port, like Savannah, so when we talk about bringing jobs, we need to take that into account and attract manufacturing jobs, jobs that will require skilled workers.”

When Cooper Tire and Firestone were in operation, hundreds of area residents were involved in making “American-made” products, and bringing that back to Albany should be the goal, Taylor said.

When workers are employed and have health insurance coverage, they have access to medical services they otherwise would not have, he said. That makes for healthier individuals and a stronger community and creates demand for jobs in other fields.

“If we produce more jobs, there would be more citizens that will need a network of providers — dental, health and vision,” he said. “I intend to put the skilled worker on my back to build up a vibrant economy for the common man. That is my road map to jump-starting Albany back to prominence and making Albany great again.”

Taylor’s third priority would be bulking up the city’s capabilities to respond to natural disasters.

The region has faced several severe storms — from straight-line winds to a hurricane — in recent years. Preparing for the next one would be a priority for Taylor. This includes, he said, drafting plans for responding to and providing relief for natural disasters.

It also means equipping emergency workers for dealing with the aftermath and protecting the lives of residents.

“Our fire department must have the necessary equipment to cut down trees and help with debris removal and cleaning roadways when a natural disaster hits,” he said.

Finally, Taylor said he he thinks the city should look at utility rates and give customers some relief on costs.

“These are the main issues I will address from day one as mayor and restore hope to our citizens,” he said. “I think I should be mayor because the people are demanding a strong leader who is ready to deliver real results, and also the people want someone that’s going to make the community feel safe and help bring back jobs and also bring a sense of respect and accountability to the city.”

Hands-on approach to nutrition education flourishes
All Dougherty County School System elementary schools have gardens

ALBANY — The Georgia Department of Education recognized Flint River Fresh Executive Director Fredando Jackson, better known as “Farmer Fredo,” as Farmer of the Year at the Golden Radish Award ceremony last month after Jackson was nominated by the Dougherty County School System’s nutrition program.

The award is a reflection of the work done over the last several years to add a new perspective to nutritional education.

Blaine Allen, school nutrition director for the Dougherty County School System, said there are teaching gardens at all of the system’s elementary schools — including at the Magnolia Pre-K facility.

“We are (currently) in the midst of planting our fall gardens,” Allen said.

Several Partners in Excellence, among them Flint River Fresh, have worked to foster these gardens since their establishment seven years ago.

“They (partners) not only help us plant, they are engaged with going into the schools,” Allen said. “It gives that school another learning tool. It is an educational tool very important in the teaching process.”

This learning tool can be used in a variety of different ways. Math teachers can use it to help students determine what each garden’s yield will be, science teachers can use it for a lesson on photosynthesis and art classes may go out and sketch the plants.

Allen said the process on how the gardens are utilized as part of the curriculum depends on the school. On some campuses, there are classes solely dedicated to the garden.

Students assist in the planting process, and they use technology available to them — including iPads — to track the progress of the fall gardens until they are harvested in January and February.

When they are harvested, the products from the garden, including collards, romaine lettuce, spinach, radishes and green onions, are incorporated into the school’s cafeteria menu.

Taste tests and cooking demonstrations are also conducted.

“They get a chance to be a part of the process,” Allen said. “They think vegetables come from Walmart.”

Allen said some campuses have been extremely engaged in the process, with a few requesting extra beds. One school, Turner Elementary School, has asked for extra beds for the purposes of helping families in need nearby.

“It has been very beneficial,” Allen said.

Allen said teachers are eager to have a tool that allows students something to see and touch, while the students gain in their nutritional education by actively planting and harvesting.

Giving the students that component can help the importance of good nutrition sink in, and it benefits them in the long run.

“One way to combat chronic illness is to eat green, leafy vegetables and we grow those in our gardens,” Allen said. “We can provide a healthy lunch that meets USDA regulations.”

Once the plants are harvested and served at the school, there is a sense of pride and ownership not gained by picking them from a store or having the product handed to them.

“That sense of pride is multiplied, coupled with being able to taste the products,” Allen said. “If they make healthy choices, that lasts a lifetime; it is a unique experience to see and touch.

“Being a part of the process of having a hand in it, taste it and learn, it is a win-win.”

In the summer months that the gardens are not otherwise active, Flint River Fresh uses them for crops such as sweet potatoes so the community can be fed — in turn addressing the food insecurity that some neighborhoods in Albany face.

Going forward, a partnership is bringing a garden to Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy, and a greenhouse is being developed at Monroe Comprehensive High School.

“The goal is to be sustainable over time,” Allen said.

The sustainability, he added, is dependent on partners working together. Radium Springs Elementary School was recognized as Garden of the Year because of school engagement. Without these partners, Allen said, the gardens are unable to serve their purpose.

“Everybody is collaborating to help that garden (at Radium Springs) thrive,” Allen said. “We need to make sure we sustain it as a teaching tool; students can achieve academic success in the classroom and thrive outside the classroom.

“We cannot do it without collaboration. When you introduce vegetables kids won’t get at home, it is amazing the response you get.”

The key is to put resources into the program, some of which has included grant money.

“When you think about local and giving back, it frees resources to do other things,” Allen said. “We have the vision to expand the program. The vision doesn’t exist without support.

“Overall, it is a melting pot in the community. When you have that melting pot, that is when you create that sustainability.”

The Golden Radish Award was given to local educational agencies in Georgia that have been doing extraordinary Farm-to-School work. Ninety Georgia school districts were recognized at this year’s Golden Radish Awards. Collectively, these districts served more than 2 million meals featuring local food and tended 4,646 school gardens while conducting 4,432 hands-on food and gardening activities.

Awards were presented by Georgia DOE, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Public Health, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, Bright from the Start: Department of Early Care and Learning, and Georgia Organics. The Georgia DOE presented an award to a Georgia farmer whose work in school districts is exceptional.

The Georgia DOE recognizes the importance of Farm to School as an integral part of educating the whole child, fostering both physical and mental health.

“We encourage the creation of educational opportunities for students that allows them to identify where food comes from, learn why this is important and to apply knowledge from all subject areas in an engaging way,” officials from Georgia DOE said in a statement following the Golden Radish Award ceremony. “For this reason and many others, we are piloting the nation’s first-ever elementary agriculture education curriculum. This builds on the commitment we made when we established the first-ever academic nutritionist role to better connect our classrooms with our school nutrition programs.

“We realize that Georgia farmers have generously given their time and resources to support school districts in these efforts across the state. Farmers provide nutritious, high-quality food that is served in our school nutrition programs and discussed in our classrooms. They serve as true partners in education for their communities as they support the work of our teachers, nutrition staff and other community leaders. They are truly fueling Georgia’s future.”

Georgia DOE Superintendent Richard Woods, in partnership with School Nutrition, presented the Farmer of the Year Award to Jackson for his contributions to the program.

“This year’s recipient has committed countless hours to his work around agricultural outreach to low-income communities in rural areas of Georgia,” Woods said. “He teaches sustainable practices for feeding communities, preserving the environment, and empowering young people.

“He has assisted with 22 school and community gardens, organized a mobile farmers’ market, supplied school nutrition programs with locally grown produce, including strawberries and collards, and provided technical assistance to schools through teaching gardens, lessons and taste tests in classrooms and cafeterias.”