Start a Neighborhood Watch... adopt-a-kid... report child abuse... create a drug-free community... increase police patrol in the neighborhood... keep from destroying property... a soccer field... a volleyball net...
After 41 years of living on Pitts Street, Mary Hunt has a wish list. Friday evening, community leaders and residents gathered together to start checking items off that list.
Sponsored by McDuffie County Partners for Success, the City of Thomson and McDuffie County, "Pigskins and Partners" was a block party held at Pitts Street Park for local residents. Approximately 250 residents, business leaders, city and county officials met for a free meal from Thomson's Dairy Queen and Partners for Success and to discuss how they can continue improving the neighborhood.
"I thought it was a great event, myself," Mayor Pro-tem Alton Belton said. "It was a lot of people turning out, and that's something that we really need, bringing our community together. I think it was a successful event because the people got to see the state and the local officials over there trying to do something in the community together."
The object of several Community Development Block Grants and community revitalization efforts in the past, the neighborhood is slowly improving in some ways, but struggling in others. Officials are looking at ways to help beyond the physical appearance of the buildings. And that's just what Ms. Hunt said is needed.
"If they can get the children while they are young, then they won't ever have to build no more jails," she said.
The event gave Ms. Hunt and her neighbor, Fannie Sims, the opportunity to discuss their wish list with McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton and State Representative Sistie Hudson.
Ms. Sims, whose home was recently renovated through CBDG, said she raises her five nieces through court-ordered custody. Before the renovations, she said she struggled to make her electricity monthly payments of $500.
"But this year, they got me a central air conditioner and my bill has gone down to $190, thank the Lord," she said, adding that she gets no food stamps to help feed the girls. "They redid my whole house, and I love it, I love it, I love it."
Ms. Sims agreed that more must be done, and the block party has been needed for a long time.
"We really need to bring everybody together because you can't do nothing by yourself," she said. "It's about all of us working together."
Working together is the concept Partners for Success was founded on, said Director Miriam Smith. The agency joins with others to bring in and use grants for educational and support programs to improve the quality of life for citizens. Friday's event also served as a back-to-school supply drive for PFS. Parents and guardians who attended could sign up their children to receive free school supplies. There also was a station for residents to fill out a survey and an information sheet or register for classes. For the community business leaders, there was the opportunity to learn more how they could make donations or volunteer to mentor a family.
"I would not have missed it for anything," Rep. Hudson said. "I'm real proud to be here and be with the kids, and of course, the football players."
In her speech, Rep. Hudson issued a challenge to the other business leaders and government officials to match her $100 donation to the school supply drive. Mr. Newton followed suit, as did special guests Danny Verdun-Wheeler, and Casper and Jasper Brinkley. The three, who were gridiron greats at Thomson High before playing professional football, spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to support each other and for the younger ones to "stay out of trouble."
"I know this is a great community and every time I go out on the field, I carry Thomson on my back," Jasper said. "I've got a great support system here. And y'all do, too. Kids, stay out of trouble, and shoot for the stars."
Chairman Newton stressed for the crowd to "let us know what you need."
"The more we can come together, the better we are," he said. "But we don't want to do anything you don't want us to do."
For more information, call Partners for Success at 706-595-3112, McDuffie County Commission at 706-595-2100 or the City of Thomson at 706-595-1781.
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