P.O. Box 129,
Harlem, GA. 30814
Columbia County Community Connections is a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to building partnerships in the community, finding resources, implementing programs to serve children and families and promoting volunteerism as a way to strengthen the community. We currently have 6 full-time staff members with an operating budget of $901,000 – almost all from grants.
The City of Harlem is our fiscal agent and a great community partner. The City is responsible for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, which financed the construction of a new Community Connections office and Head Start classrooms. We moved into these offices in January 2009.
We are the Columbia County Family Connection collaborative, which is part of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, a statewide network of 159 county collaboratives in Georgia. Each collaborative serves as the local decision-making body, bringing community partners together to develop, implement, and evaluate plans that address the serious challenges facing Georgia’s children and families. The collaborative meets the third Tuesday of every month, alternating times and places to accommodate working families who want to participate.
The Columbia County collaborative has chosen as its primary goal to work with the school system and the community to improve the graduation rate, especially at Harlem High School. Last year, 90 percent of the students we worked with graduated, compared to the overall rate of 65 percent.
Collaboratives work closely with communities to:
We are also the umbrella organization for Hands On
Columbia County, which is an affiliate of Hands On Georgia. Through
that organization, we have 2 full-time AmeriCorps members (not included
in staff figures above) who work throughout the community to create
and oversee volunteer projects. Our AmeriCorps members are specifically
tasked with helping people improve their employability skills and find
jobs. In addition, they are encouraging young people to take the Work
Keys Assessment as part of the Georgia Work Ready Initiative. This past
year we worked with the family of Ryan Clark to create a Scholarship
and Community Service Award to honor the memory of the Virginia Tech
student who was known for his volunteerism and academic excellence.
The first year's recipient was Lakeside High School senior Ellie Bissell.
Here is some of what we are doing (and have done) in partnership with the community:
After-School Programs – We work with Harlem High School, Harlem Middle School and North Harlem Elementary on several after-school initiatives to help students improve their grades and provide them with life and work skills. Students receive tutoring, homework assistance, and participate in youth development opportunities, teambuilding activities and community service events. These programs are funded through our 21st Century Learning Center grant and the Georgia Department of Human Services grant. This year we added three new sites in Grovetown at Cedar Ridge Elementary, Grovetown Elementary and Grovetown Middle School, bringing our total enrollment to more than 400 students. These programs have provided additional income for more than 100 workers.
Harlem Summer Enrichment Program – In the summer of
2009, more than 200 children participated in the summer programs held
at North Harlem Elementary and Harlem High School. They received academic
tutoring, and enrichment in areas such as art, music, drama, and photography.
Physical exercise, teambuilding, and self-confidence development was
part of the experience. Every Thursday, they went on field trips such,
including a trip to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
Youth Council – A leadership team at Harlem High School of about 12 to 15 students that teaches leadership skills, encourage abstinence from risky behaviors and community involvement. These students led a Kick Butts Day Carnival at North Harlem Elementary last year to encourage students to stay away from tobacco.
Anger Management: Middle School students referred by guidance counselors received anger management instruction based on Breaking Down the Walls of Anger. We have been providing this service for four years.
Saturday Sacks Program: In partnership with area schools and churches, this program provides a bag of food that children can prepare themselves. The food is given on Fridays to children who have been identified as needing this service. Currently, this program serves 312 students at 12 schools. Golden Harvest provided funding for 100 bags per week to school children in 2008-2009 and again this year. New Heights Community Church provides 72 bags to Grovetown Elementary and Journey Community Church provides 75 bags. Our organization is seeking partners to help with the remaining 65 bags.
Abstinence Education – Provides research-based abstinence education (minimum of 5 classes) to ninth-grade students at Harlem, Lakeside, Evans and Greenbrier high schools and the alternative school.
LifeSkills Training Program – A research-based substance abuse prevention program taught to students participating in our after-school programs.
Military Support – Our AmeriCorps members have collected thousands of items to send overseas to support troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We partner with the City to put on the Military Thanksgiving, where we feed armed services personnel to show our appreciation for their sacrifice.
Augusta State University Community Involvement Fair – We work with ASU to help college students make connections with 30 agencies throughout the CSRA to be of service to the community.
Mentoring – Family Connection staff and volunteers mentored 25 students during the 2008-2009 school year.
AmeriCorps Projects – Throughout the year, our AmeriCorps members lead dozens of community service projects such as a city cleanup during Hands On Georgia Week, a toy drive at Christmas and painting a downtown mural. They work with other agencies to try and help with their projects as well. We documented more than 10,000 volunteer hours last year.
HANDSON web site: – The www.handsoncolumbiacounty.org web site allows anyone to sign up to be a volunteer and to find out different service projects they can get involved in. We can print out reports that show how much volunteers have contributed to the community.
Programs that we have worked on in past years:
Operation Graduation – In partnership with the high schools, we helped to provide support services for credit recovery classes, including transportation, snacks, and student and teacher incentives. In spring 2007, 198 students received a half credit toward graduation.
Study Skills Class – Provided an after-school program at Evans High School started in February 2007 to encourage students who have come back from the Alternative School to stay on track with their grades and behavior. Partnered with graduation coach and career specialist.
After-School Program at Harlem Public Library: This program operated in 2007 and grew out of a request from the library, which was being overwhelmed with children in the afternoons. We hired a part-time youth facilitator to take some of the burden off the library staff. This program was retired once the need was no longer there.
GED Class at Alternative School: Helped arrange a partnership with CCBOE and Augusta Technical College to start a GED class at the Alternative School. Our role is helping recruit students for the program and to provide encouragement and support to keep them on target.
Health Care Task Force: Created a task force to look into ways to improve the health of Columbia County citizens and find ways to provide access to health care for the uninsured.
Project PUSH – GED support for 14-21 year olds who have dropped out of high school. Must meet certain economic requirements. This program ended in 2008.
Attic Treasures: Operated a thrift store in downtown Harlem for 3 years. Proceeds benefit local charities, the American Cancer Society and the Harlem Foundation’s Transition Home. Another community organization took responsibility for this enterprise in December 2007.
Summer Feeding Program – A free summer feeding program for children and families run nearly entirely by volunteers, spearheaded by Harlem United Methodist Church. The program served about 100 children per day in the summer 2007 and 2008.
Camp Hardy – Helped create a partnership with the Family Y that now offers summer camp to children in this area.
Youth Ambassadors to Business and Industry –Students involved in this program attend meetings at least twice a month after school and have participated in several events, including the Career Fair at Evans High School and several field trips. We have partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and several area businesses to encourage students to consider careers in industries that are located in Columbia County. This program operation during the 2007-2008 school year and has been incorporated into the after-school program at HHS.
Young Women of Excellence – An organization started four years ago for female students at Harlem High School with three English teachers to promote sisterhood, self-respect, academic achievement, community service and setting long-range goals. Membership this year is about 30 students.
For more information please visit our website at www.gafcp.org/fcnetwork/columbia
Name and likenesses of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy