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Local community leaders come together for 'One Community'

POSTED: February 14, 2009 11:59 p.m.

A community isn’t just a group of people who live close to each other, Rev. Stephen Samuel said during the first meeting of Gainesville’s new “One Community Organization” Saturday at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center.

For people to speak with one voice in expressing concerns ranging from street improvements to education to opportunities for young people, they must set aside their personal agendas for the sake of unity, Samuel said.

“There has to be a common thread that runs through each of us,” Samuel said. “The challenge in Gainesville is to find that common thread.”

The One Community Organization is the new name for the Citizens Involvement Advisory Roundtable, a group that brought Gainesville residents together to air complaints and make suggestions on how to improve their neighborhoods.

The mission remains largely the same: to better connect citizens with local government and services. But “One Community” wants to be more of an umbrella group with representatives from local organizations like the Grady Young Foundation, Beulah Rucker Foundation, Newtown Florist Club and Men’s Progressive Club.

“We’re trying to get every (local) organization and nonprofit involved with us, so if you’ve got a concern, you can state it and have it addressed right then,” said Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras, an organizer of the group.

The group will hold morning meetings every second Saturday at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

On Saturday, a group of about 50 Gainesville residents filled out survey forms that will help form the basis of the new group’s agenda.

Hall County District 4 Commissioner Ashley Bell said the idea behind “One Community” was to include all the stakeholders and local leaders, including Gainesville City school board members Willie Mitchell and Kelvin Simmons, who spoke to the group Saturday.

“Every elected (local) official is a member of the executive board, whether they choose to come or not,” Bell said.

One Community seeks to bring together a fragmented array of nonprofits to address common causes, Bell said.

“We all knew unity was already needed,” Bell said. “We all need to be on the same page, and that’s why we started this.”

Bell ran through some of the concerns already expressed in last year’s citizens advisory survey, chief among them: street improvements to the Morning Side Hills Community east of I-985.

Neighborhood litter is another prevalent problem that may be addressed through privately-donated and maintained trash receptacles, Bell said.

A replacement for the Butler Center gym may be created on the campus of the Beulah Ruckr Memorial Foundation Center, Bell said.

Bell said Saturday marked a beginning for what he hopes will be an effective method of addressing citizen concerns.

“What you see today is change coming together,” Bell said. “We’ve laid out a game plan and a guide.”



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