Neighborhood Leaders update

We now have 15 of the 16 Neighborhood Leaders on board and doing amazing work. They all had great experience (volunteer or paid) and therefore were ready to hit the ground running. They are:

Alps: Tyron Harris, 706-521-1433,

Barnett Shoals: Somia Collins, 706-510-5556,

Barrow: Pamela Brown, 706-521-1223,

Chase: Broderick Flanigan, 706-521-1677,

Cleveland: MyKeisha Ross, 706-521-2299,

Easom: Markeia Rucker, 706-510-8295,

Fowler: Kirrena Gallegher, 706-521-2258,,

Gaines: Taneisha Brooks, 706-510-5847,

J. J. Harris: not yet filled

Oglethorpe: Venzella Stowers, 706-510-5266,

Payne: Stephanie Flores, 706-510-9348,

Stroud: Gwen Littleton, 706-510-8004,

Timothy: Cecilia Lozada, 706-510-8600,

Whit Davis: LaTasha Sheats, 706-521-2056,

Whitehead: Christine Buice, 706-510-8167,

Winterville: Shawanda Johnson, 706-510-5771,

Program Director: Terris Thomas, 706-521-2393,

ACC Geospatial Information Office expert Mary Martin developed an interactive app where community members can go, click on their neighborhood, and get contact information for their Neighborhood Leader:

The link to that map is prominently included on the ACC COVID-19 Response Data Resources Homepage:

They were on the job two weeks when the state of emergency was declared.

Before the Emergency

Athens Wellbeing Project data was shared. General orientation to Family Connection-CIS Strategic Action Teams and Envision Athens committees was provided. Orientation and materials related to the importance of response to the Census was provided.

Information about key services and how to connect through online or in person applications was provided, including SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, employment opportunities, health services, and others. Weekly full-team staff meetings were planned, to include team-building and professional development along with partner-provided training and collaboration around key services.

Eight days before the first local state of emergency declaration, Advantage Behavioral Health Systems provided an excellent training, with leaders of each of their 7 service areas describing the services and how to access them. Other partners “lined up” with plans to share similar training in the weeks ahead.

In addition to county-wide services, each Neighborhood Leader brought knowledge of more localized, mostly volunteer services in their Zones. They immediately began outreach through churches & other faith-based organizations, schools, businesses, elected leaders, and others to build their resource lists.

Because of their experience, they were also able to begin outreach to individuals to provide information, referrals, and case management.

Initial outreach included door-to-door outreach, outreach at community events, and outreach to and from partner organizations and leaders at the neighborhood, zone, and county-wide levels. It also included outreach through social media, both individually by the Neighborhood Leaders and through FC-CIS and partner support.

With online Census opening in mid-March in parallel with mailings from the Census Bureau, the Neighborhood Leaders’ outreach included an emphasis on the importance of responding to the Census (economic and electoral), specifically focusing on addressing areas of concern and interest to what the Census Bureau calls “hard to count population groups.”

Neighborhood Leaders, the NL Director, and the FC-CIS executive director engaged in discussions with multiple community collaborations about the role of Neighborhood Leaders in those collaborative initiatives. March discussions before the declaration of emergency included, among others: Census Complete Count Committee; Advantage Behavioral Health; Interfaith Clergy Partnership of Greater Athens; service providers roundtable hosted at DFCS by Amerigroup; Office of Inclusion (hosted by Krystle Cobran and including several partners); DFCS; Los Hispanos; and the Family Connection-CIS Early Care & Learning (birth to 8) Strategic Action Team.

Both pre- and post-emergency ordinance declaration, they provided information, referrals, and case management related to SNAP, unemployment, transportation, job opportunities, and food resources.

They set up appointments for individuals with the Department of Labor, Athens Tech, Cosmetology School, and public and subsidized private housing property managers.

They also met with family engagement specialists and principals in schools in their zones, ACC Commissioners, the Mayor of Winterville, Piedmont Athens Regional social worker, and neighborhood businesses. 

Upon Passage of the Unigov State of Emergency Resolution

After the first resolution declaring a State of Emergency was unanimously approved by the Commission, Neighborhood Leaders were well positioned to engage with the Unified Government, School District, and many other partners to assist in the emergency response.

Among their activities:

  • High levels of engagement with distribution of food and personal & household goods.
  • They helped pack food at the School District sites, Food Bank, a multiple community sites (EADC, churches, other).  Note: Safe practices included gloves & masks, removed for the photos.
  • They helped distribute food at the School District sites, with school bus delivery, and at community sites.
  • They recruited volunteers to help with the above.
  • They did extensive outreach to help individuals and families learn where and when food distribution was taking place and how to access it.
  • They delivered food and commodities to scores of homes needing both and having no other way to access them.
  • They traveled ahead of the school buses to the sites where food was to be delivered, directly addressing the need for social separation as individuals congregated to wait for the delivery.
  • In addition, they provided information to those at the sites about sheltering in place, other safety needs, availability of resources and support, and other information and referral.
  • They placed more than 100 Unigov-provided yard signs promoting safety.
  • They provided information and assistance to 12 individuals on how to file for unemployment online.
  • One of them appeared on WXAG to provide the details on how to file for unemployment, and how to contact Neighborhood Leaders for assistance.
  • Two Neighborhood Leaders appeared on WXAG to share about the importance of responding to the Census (and relating it to the current emergency).
  • They provided job referrals to individuals, some of whom secured employment.
  • They assisted dozens of individuals in applying online for SNAP through the Gateway portal.
  • They’ve provided outreach and telephone check-ins with individuals served by the Council on Aging.
  • They have assisted elderly individuals with accessing and utilizing technology for internet information, video-visiting with loved ones, and related connection.
  • They shared information in their neighborhoods (practicing social distancing) and online (through social media and emails) about services, resources, and volunteer opportunities. As trusted voices in the community, they were heard as they shared information on safe practices and the local ordinance.

Their outreach includes information about:

  • The local shelter-in-place ordinances
  • The Governor’s state of emergency executive order
  • Sites/locations/times for food and other goods (CCSD, Council on Aging, faith organizations, EADC, Athens Emergency Food Bbank, Shifa Clinic, and others)
  • The Mayor’s videos communicating about the emergency
  • ACC coronavirus response website
  • ACC response data/maps/resources hub website
  • Athens Transit
  • Public Health safety messages
  • Countering misinformation
  • DFCS – online applications for SNAP, Medicaid, and others services, and  child protection reporting
  • DoL: unemployment online applications
  • Small business: loan & support information (SBA, ACC Economic Development Department, Chamber, ADDA, Shop Small Athens, others)
  • Ways to support small businesses – ordering online, pickup, etc.
  • Leisure Services updates
  • Financial resources from The Ark, ACTION Inc., and others
  • Census
  • Georgia Legal Services services (including consultation on landlord-tenant)
  • Child care – open, closed, scholarships
  • Athens Transit services
  • Health care (Mercy and other providers)
  • Mental health services and resources
  • Internet access support
  • Athens Tech and University System testing waivers
  • Information from the School District
  • Information about trauma (and trauma-informed response) as it relates to the current crisis 
  • Willson Center “micro-fellowships” in arts & humanities related to the crisis
  • Home education resources (CCSD, Ga DoE, TedEd, Get Ga Reading, others)
  • Library services information
  • Mutual Aid Network
  • Homeless provider services updates (from the Homeless Coalition)
  • Safety
  • Volunteer opportunities 

Neighborhood Leaders, program director Terris Thomas, and executive director Tim Johnson have all been involved in collaborative discussions related to the COVID-19 response. Among many others, these conversations have included:

  • FC-CIS Early Care & Learning Strategic Action Team discussions about challenges related to child care
  • Census Complete Count Committee (changing strategies to promote Census response in light of the emergency)
  • FC-CIS Safety & Community Stability Strategic Action Team (trauma-informed responsiveness, self-care, child safety, other)
  • Chamber & Envision Athens (information sharing through business & community, nonprofit leaders, EA Workforce Development Subcommittee, and other online meetings)
  • Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Athens Community Corps discussions facilitated by ACC Manager, ACC Inclusion Coordinator, and others
  • Food distribution strategizing (collaboration between CCSD and Unified Government, connection of 5&10, engagement of Council on Aging, etc.)
  • Interfaith Clergy Partnership of Greater Athens

Neighborhood Leaders March Outreach Numbers

These numbers reflect individual outreach by Neighborhood Leaders in March and do not include social media, general food distribution, etc.

Introduction outreach to individuals: 145 (124 face-to-face, 14 by phone, 1 by email, 6 by text)

Resource identification: 52 (38 face to face, 10 by phone, 1 by email, 3 by text)

Information outreach: 104 (71 face to face, 23 phone, 1 email, 9 text)

Resource connection: 107 (80 face to face, 22 phone, 1 email, 4 text)

Setting appointments for individuals with service providers: 29 (2 face to face, 5 phone, 1 email, 3 text)

School-related: 19 (13 face to face, 5 phone, 1 email)

Other: 29 (18 face to face, 8 phone, 1 email, 2 text)

Meals on Neighborhood Leaders’ Wheels

Neighborhood Leaders are significantly expanding their role with the Council on Aging in delivering meals to the homes of those in need.

We’ve been part of a group led by the Unigov & CCSD discussing how to get meals to adults and hard-to-reach families not reached by the great work the School District is doing. There was a strong desire for meal deliveries to go to the home, and the consensus of the group is that we should build on ACCA’s program. ACCA had already more than quadrupled its deliveries to seniors and adults with disabilities.

Households with emergent needs are being added.

While these discussions were ongoing, our friend Hugh Acheson of 5& 10 contacted us. In partnership with World Central Kitchen, Hugh and his staff would be providing 500 nutritious meals per day initially, then growing beyond that. Within a few days Hugh was delivering the meals to ACCA. They’re going to ACCA clients and with transportation support from the Unigov, to other locations (including Pinewoods, Hope Haven, Winterville, and other).

Building on that, plans continued on expanding ACCA’s home delivery. Terris and ACCA executive director Eve Anthony discussed ways Neighborhood Leaders could be involved and, with less than a 24-hour turnaround, Neighborhood Leaders identified more than 50 households to which they will deliver a weekly package of food and other commodities (picked up from ACCA) next week, with numbers growing from there.

In addition to delivering themselves, NLs are recruiting other volunteers to assist. All will, of course, follow strict safety protocols.

Other Neighborhood Leader news

ACC Mayor Kelly Girtz has included continued funding for the NL program in his proposed FY 2021 budget, and several Commissioners have expressed their support.

Mayor Dodd Ferrelle of Winterville is working very closely with Neighborhood Leader Shawanda Johnson, including providing resources for families Shawanda is serving. When Tim emailed to thank him for his support of her work, he replied, “Shawanda has been a godsend.  She showed up at the perfect time and has been a huge help to me and the city.”

Mark Madison of the United Way presented to the NLs (via Zoom) about how to access the 211 database online, and how to inform him about updates and services not in the database.

NLs are partnering with ACC PD’s Community Oriented Policing about ways to further strengthen those connections.

Timothy Baptist Church is donating office space and more to the program.

Terris and Neighborhood Leaders continue to build relationships and support (and get support from) a variety of other community efforts.

They’re studying the book Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley.  


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