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ASU students recipients of Darton Health Professions scholarships
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ALBANY — The Darton Health Professions Foundation recently announced scholarships awards of more than $53,000 to Albany State University students.

“It was an exciting semester of excellent applicants,” Randae Davis, Executive Director of the Darton Foundation, said. “We had about 250 applications for our named, endowed, and need-based scholarships. We want to do more in the future.”

Since 1977, the Darton Health Professions Foundation, formerly known as the Darton State College Foundation, has awarded millions of dollars in scholarship funding to worthy students who have lived, learned and are now working professionals in southwest Georgia. With 20 endowed scholarships that are awarded primarily in the fall to eligible students, the foundation offers more than just health professions scholarships. It offers scholarships for students majoring in art, music, education, business, first responders and international students.

“We have several scholarships that are field of study specific and are for students from specific geographic locations in southwest Georgia,” Pam Simmons, the current chairperson of the foundation, said. “Those can sometimes be more difficult to award. One that comes to mind is the Roselyn Ware Memorial Nursing Scholarship. It is intended for a nursing student from Mitchell County. We are very excited that it was awarded this year after being dormant for a few semesters.”

This fall, 35 recipients were chosen by the foundation committee to receive scholarships that ranged from $500 to a little more than $6,000. The award amount is based on the foundation’s spend policy and the average value of each endowment.

“There were still awards we were not able to make this semester due to a lack of applicants or applications that did not meet the specific criteria,” Davis said. “However, we received a late application by a student in her last semester that had exhausted her federal financial aid and did not have the means to remain enrolled. Without an award, she would not have been able to graduate. These types of scholarships are very meaningful to our board and donors when we can literally help a student across the finish line to enter into their profession.”

Each semester the foundation receives compelling applications. Last year, applications slowed down due to the pandemic and a lack of awareness. This semester, students were able to more easily find the opportunities on Albany State University’s website and the foundation’s website.

“We streamlined the process a bit,” Davis said. “We now have electronic submission, and students are able to upload their supporting documentation in the application portal and the committee has an excellent overview of the student’s major or field of study, need, GPA, and the reason the student chose their major and Albany State University.”

The COVID-19 pandemic created awareness of the needs facing the health care industry and the shortage of health care workers, especially nurses.

“We had one donor call and request to amend their endowment to benefit the health care field,” Davis said. “They want to help a student that will not only continue to educate themselves, such as an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree, but also become part of the solution in southwest Georgia.”

The foundation recognizes the magnitude of the need and the benefit of helping the students of today and the health care professionals of tomorrow in SWGA. The next opportunity for scholarship and awards is Jan. 1. For more information on available scholarships or to help financially support student scholarships, visit www.dartonfoundaiton.org.

Spreading protection: Weekend clinic boosts Dougherty's COVID vaccination rate
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ALBANY — On a day that would have made the A-Team’s Hannibal Smith proud, the plan came together at a Saturday outdoor clinic that got nearly 900 residents vaccinated against COVID-19 in Dougherty County.

“Everything flowed perfectly,” Sam Allen, director of Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services, said of the event. “It was a big success, and it was a 100 percent team effort of all the agencies and businesses and services that worked together.”

The vaccination clinic, held in a back parking lot of the Albany Civic Center, doubled the participation of the first event held in September from three traffic lanes to six to move cars through quicker. Dougherty County residents and college students attending classes in Albany were eligible for $100 gift cards after receiving shots.

On Monday, Dougherty County Commission members suggested holding a third event to increase the number of residents vaccinated, and it has tentatively been scheduled for Nov. 6.

The commission approved in August spending up to $338,000 toward awarding gift cards to county residents 18 and older who receive vaccinations. With the 875 vaccinated on Saturday and 539 during the initial clinic, there remains about $200,000 in funding allocated.

On Saturday, 859 of those who were vaccinated qualified to receive the $100 incentive, adding to the 530 receiving gift cards in September. The clinics were open to residents of other counties ages 12 and up as well as Dougherty County residents, but those citizens were not eligible to receive the $100 bonuses.

Of the shots given on Saturday, 330 were a fist dose of the Pfizer vaccine, 442 were a second dose and 66 were booster shots. The status of the remaining 37 recipients was being evaluated through state records.

“We were looking for 700 to 800 people,” Allen said. “We actually exceeded that.”

The additional protection provided through the effort will help protect the community and help paramedics and hospitals provide better care for patients who have health crises involving causes other than COVID-19, the director said.

“The big thing we’re looking at is let’s lessen the load for next January,” he said of the potential for reducing transmission of the virus during the holiday season. “We don’t want to be back in that again like we were last year.”

Other partners for the event included Albany Area Primary Health Care, the Georgia Department of Public Health and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, which provided volunteers to give injections. Area law enforcement agencies provided traffic control and security.

None of those who received a shot on Saturday had an adverse reaction to the vaccine, Allen said.

“Eight hundred seventy-five is a huge number,” Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said during the Monday meeting after hearing a report on the results. “We’re making steps to move ourselves significantly forward and make ourselves a safer community.

“For every person (vaccinated), as I understand it, you’re eliminating 16, 17 additional infections.”

Commissioner Anthony Johnson made the suggestion to schedule another clinic in November, an idea supported by other commission members.

The average cost for treating a COVID-19 patient in the hospital is some $50,000, so the effort is ultimately an investment, Commissioner Gloria Gaines said.

“I’m really at a loss for words for how well it worked,” she said. “I am proud of the staff, and I am proud of this effort. Just think, the small amount of money is coming back to us on the back end, not to mention the lives we are saving.”

Broadband project could provide access to 3,000 Dougherty households
  • Updated

ALBANY — The Dougherty County Commission took action Monday on a proposal that could provide broadband internet connection to up to 90 percent of residents in unincorporated areas.

“We’re predicting 3,116 new customers” could be reached through the project, Jeremy Brown, project engineer for the county’s Public Works Department, told commissioners at a Monday meeting.

Other highlights of the meeting included:

♦ An update on redistricting for commission districts based on 2020 U.S. Census figures;

♦ A vote to accept federal and state grant money to fund mitigation efforts related to a Jan. 2017 storm that caused significant damage in the county;

♦ County staff is preparing a grant package to help extend broadband service to residents who do not have broadband access or are underserved;

♦ Commissioners approved applying for a $15.59 million grant through the state’s Fiscal Recovery/American Rescue Plan Broadband Infrastructure Improvements program. The county’s share, if approved, is estimated at a little over $1 million.

Separately, the commission also approved a memorandum of understanding with AT&T for design, construction and implementation of a 100 percent fiber optic wire line network in the unincorporated portion of the county. Under the agreement, AT&T will provide $2.1 million in funding for the project.

Redistricting will be required for the six County Commission districts, and Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas announced that he intends to work in tandem with the Dougherty County School Board, which also has six districts. The same process was used in 2010 in drawing boundaries for local elections.

The county’s population declined by 9.3 percent, from 94,565 in 2010 to 85,790 in 2020, according to the census count.

All of the six districts, with the exception of District 1, experienced a decline in population, County Attorney Spencer Lee told commissioners.

“That means we’ve got to redistrict according to the 2020 Census,” he said.

The hazard grant award will allow the county to purchase and demolish 18 properties damaged during the 2017 storms at a total cost of $3.32 million.

It will include $2.5 million in federal funds, $332,000 in state funding, and the county providing matching funds of $449,000.

The properties will remain as permanent greenspaces after the work is completed.

Mary, Deerfield-Windsor School