Cooper opens “The Park”
• George Cooper saw a need in Louisville for a safe place for people to go, so he built one
By Faye Ellison
In the beginning, The Park was just a place for George Cooper, a hair designer, and his mother to relax on a patio.
Cooper did not let it end there; the patio expanded into a basketball court. Then he decided that ladies needed a volleyball court and now it is a full-fledged park for the enjoyment of young and old alike.
“While I was working in The Park, kids came by to ask if they could come play,” Cooper said. “I thought about it and they didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Looking across the park in Wrens Quarters at what used to be an empty lot, there now stand basketball goals, grills, a softball field and walking track.
"In my community there is nothing for the kids or adults to do,” the designer said. “So I took my hair show money and decided to go in there and make the park happen. I took a chance with what I did for the community.”
Fun and games that are available at The Park include hula-hoop, three-legged race, softball, swings, basketball, flag football, soccer, badminton, volleyball, horseshoes, kickball and a slide will be coming soon.
The gated park is open everyday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. It costs $1 for children 5 and under to enter and $2 for everyone 6 and up. There are also yearly passes available.
Cooper said that the community can use The Park for special occasions for a rental fee. He added that the money will go back into the park to keep it clean and organized.
“This is something that I want to make last forever,” Cooper said. “This is something brand new in the community and has never been done before. This is something I had a vision for and just did it taking a chance.”
There is a snack bar with all snacks costing $1. All equipment is free to use with an identification card. The Park is also wheelchair and handicap accessible and is equipped with men's and women's restrooms. There is also security.
Cooper purchased the property from William Dollar a few years ago. He then took the land and had it cleaned.
“Jay’s Hardware furnished all my materials,” he said. “He took a chance to help me get the park started.”
Others assisting Cooper in his venture include Smith Sheppard Building Supply, Wren Hardware, Fast Sign, Thigpen Printers, Louisville Water, Johnny Garrett, Jefferson Energy, Davis-McGraw, Lowe’s, Handi-House, Sports Authority, Its Sportswear, Wedding and Flower Gallery, Sam’s Wholesale, John Hinton, Mack Heggs, Ernestine Lewis, Geraldine Stevenson and his brother Michael Cooper.
“These people went out of the way for me and it was awesome,” Cooper said. “These people were working on their park even when I wasn’t able to be there.”
The Park’s First Community Fest Grand Opening was held this past weekend on June 3. If The Park continues to succeed, Cooper plans to hold another festival next year.
“I want the focus of The Park to stay positive,” he said. “I think that it will help a whole lot of the society, the parents and the kids. It will keep their minds on something positive.
“My park is a clean park. It is a place to go and not worry about people fighting, smoking or drinking. It is an ideal place to go.”
Cooper said that there are rules that citizens have to abide by to be able to go inside The Park, stressing that there is no drinking or smoking and that anyone intoxicated is not allowed.
Cooper said that the community’s support has been the fuel used to finish the project.
“I would like to thank the community for all the support they have given me,” he said. “A lot of people have really helped.”
Program helps grandparents take care of their families
• Area Agency on Aging extends reach in Jefferson and Glascock counties to assist relatives in taking care of children
By Faye Ellison
Due to death, drug addiction, incarceration and other mitigating factors, many parents, now grandparents, are having to raise their children’s children to make sure they stay with family and out of foster homes.
The Kinship Care Center, funded by the Area Agency on Aging, is a Medical College of Georgia School of Nursing program that assists grandparents and other relative caregivers, such as aunts or uncles, raising other’s children.
The Center wants to help those who have reached out to children in families whose parents cannot meet his or her needs. Kinship Care Center wants these caregivers to realize that they are not alone as they rise to the challenge of meeting a child’s financial, physical, emotional, behavioral, social and educational needs.
The Healthy Grandparent Program began seven years ago, to aid families that lived in Richmond and Colombia counties, but now has extended its services to 15 other counties including Glascock, Jefferson, Burke, Hancock, Jenkins, Lincoln, McDuffie, Screven, Taliaferro, Warren, Washington and Wilkes.
The center now offers a toll-free line for those outside of Richmond County to call to receive counseling and other problem-solving advice.
The Kinship Care Center began its outreach to Glascock and Jefferson counties in January, but they want to stress that it is not just for grandparents, but any relative caregiver taking care of a child on their own, which can include aunts and uncles raising nieces and nephews.
“We have been wanting for a long time to extend what we do to rural surrounding counties,” said spokesperson Mike Patton (no relation to the local deputy).
Another area in which the agency can assist is directing the guardians to legal aid.
“We are able to refer families to legal aid,” Patton said, adding, “A lot of the families are in limbo with the child living with a grandparent or guardian for year, but the parents will not give up custody.”
Patton said that most of the children that the center has worked with over the last seven years in Richmond and Columbia counties are with relatives because of drug abuse or prison.
Some children have parents that have passed away, but Patton stresses that dealing with death is still a lot for a child to handle. Other children may have been suffering from some type of abuse or neglect from the parent.
“These family members that they are familiar with and know helps the child fill a great void in being able to stay with their family,” Patton said. “It certainly does help out the kids. Children do a lot better with family members than in foster homes. Relatives will do anything to keep them out of foster care.”
The Center also has a newsletter that they send to families who use their services with information that might be pertinent to them.
Along with raising a child, comes financial problems. But the Kinship Center offers information on financial aid. They also have funds available for children to go to a summer camp if there is one in their county. Also when school begins, there are funds to buy school supplies.
The center also helps access community resources such as Medicaid, prescription drug assistance, mental health care and housing assistance.
Patton said that through the program they have found it not only helps the children, but also their caregivers.
“It certainly does help out the kids,” Patton said. “With the older senior citizens, it kind of rejuvenates their spirits. It gives them another reason to live and to work harder to take care of themselves. It has its benefits for both.”
Currently there is a support group that meets once a month in Richmond County, but Patton said that the center would like to set one up in each county as the participants in the program grow.
“One of our goals and wishes is to have a support group in each county,” Patton said.
Kinship Care Center can be reached at 1-888-284-CARE (2273) or via their website at www.mcg.edu/Son/grandparents.htm.
“When someone calls, a social worker will talk to them about their needs and how we might be able to help,” Patton said. “Maybe they are looking for help with custody or we can find someone to give them some legal advice or assistance. We have developed a resource guide and we send it to agencies in each county as well as the families that make contact with us.”
Augusta calling may soon be toll-free from Wrens
• County signs resolution supporting expansion of local two-way calling
By Jessica Newberry
Although the distance from Wrens to Augusta will never change, a phone call between the two cities may not be long distance for much longer.
At their meeting on Tuesday, May 2, the Augusta-Richmond County Commission adopted a resolution in support of the expansion of the Augusta Local Toll-Free Two-Way Calling Area.
Currently, this area does not include the cities of Thomson, Waynesboro and Wrens. However, these cities are viewed as “part of the economic and business trading area known as the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA)” according to the Augusta Commission.
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The resolution requests that the Georgia Public Service Commission complete a tariff and usage study to further explore the economical advantages of such an expansion.
Copies of the resolution were sent to governing authorities of Thomson, Waynesboro and Wrens and the Boards of Commissioners of McDuffie, Burke and Jefferson asking for their support.
In their work session on Monday, June 5, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to support the resolution.
“I think this would be a tremendous benefit to the individual with family in Augusta as well as those who do business in Augusta,” said County Administrator Paul Bryan. “This expansion is also great for businesses that require communication between the two areas.”