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James L. Hill

“The opposite of love,” someone said, “is not hate but indifference.” The Albany Cares Group Inc., a recently founded organization of work force professionals, entrepreneurs and concerned citizens, has chosen love, not indifference … that is, to love Albany. Our organization believes that the city of Albany suffers from far too much indifference; and the Albany Cares mission — “To improve the quality of the lives of the citizens of southwest Georgia through educational, economic, community, leadership and political development” — embodies love of Albany. At the core of its mission, Albany Cares seeks to strategize and implement long-term programs and solutions that advance the interests, welfare and progress of the community of Albany.

For Albany Cares, a homegrown focus group and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the outlook for Albany is indeed brighter; and with diverse members and perspectives, our organization believes that its matrix of high-income citizens, professionals, students and various ethnicities from the community provides a conducive blend of perspectives for Albany Cares to help our city grow and prosper. What is Albany Cares doing? It is changing the narrative about the city of Albany.

In the past two years, Albany Cares has completed an impressive list of impactful initiatives under its mantra “Love in Action.” A few of the Albany Cares initiatives have included one-day community gatherings at CME, Mt. Zion, Cedar Avenue and East Albany, which provided educational activities for youths, health prevention, STEM, voter registration, college recruitment, literacy activities, book distributions, food and entertainment; several feeding the community activities-post Hurricane Michael; ongoing weekly community feeding and youth empowerment sessions at Mt. Zion; a shoes for scholars academic incentive program; an HIV/AIDS testing and awareness initiative; scholarships for ASU Young Democrats’ trip to Washington, D.C.; an Urban Farming Initiative Co-Op; development of an Oasis Garden with young people; establishment of a Crop Harvest Program at the Village Community Garden, and installation of a Head Start garden.

To improve or strengthen other local social and civic organizations’ initiatives, Albany Cares has supported, joined or collaborated with a number of community programs: Elderly Food Distribution Co-Op, Phi Beta Sigma Clothing Giveaway, Balancing the Equations Expansion, ASU student voter registration, Summer Transportation Institute, Albany Second Chance, Farmer’s Conference at Hilton, Liquor Store Community Dialog, Girls Inc., Strive2Thrive, NAACP and BGC Steak and Burger.

Currently, Albany Cares and the 100 Black Men of Albany are partnering with Morningside Elementary School to provide staff assistance, bus duties and mentoring, and our organization is supporting the upcoming Vegan Food Festival at Rabbitman’s. Additionally, Albany Cares is finalizing plans for its pre-Labor Day Extravaganza on Aug. 31 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in our Harlem District. Yes, we are Harlem-bound! You can’t miss this cultural, artistic and therapeutic exposition and the first ever impromptu StreetMeet Albany and murals competition. Our first street/meet having focused on the jewel that Harlem is, we are now planning quarterly street/meets

Albany Cares has also turned its attention to politics; that is, what candidates envision for Albany in the next four years. Our organization has held two political forums, one on Sept. 3 to which we invite mayoral and commission candidates to an informal meeting with Albany Cares members, and another public forum on Sept. 12 with all of the candidates, held at the Billy C. Black Auditorium on the ASU campus. On Tuesday, at 6 p.m., Albany Cares will collaborate with the ASU Department of History and Political Science to conduct a final political forum at the Billy C. Back Auditorium, featuring all mayoral and commission candidates.

Former professor of English and chairman of the Department of English, Modern Languages and Mass Communication at Albany State University, James L. Hill previously served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and was Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at ASU. He is currently president of the Georgia Council of Teachers of English, vice chairman of the Dougherty County Library Board and a member of the corporate board of the Albany Boys and Girls Clubs.

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