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How United Way’s Community Game Plan is already making an impact in poverty fight
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Sherri Livingstone (right), vice president of Community Impact at United Way of Hall County, highlighted the components of the nonprofit’s Community Game Plan during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Healthcare Committee meeting on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. - photo by Kelsey Podo

United Way of Hall County has a new tool for pulling people out of poverty in Hall County.

During the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Healthcare Committee meeting on Wednesday, April 3, United Way’s Community Game Plan took center stage.

Sherri Livingstone, vice president of Community Impact at United Way, took people through the long-range plan’s key components: education, health and financial stability.

She said the plan was led by the One Hall Committee, which is composed of representatives of various local nonprofits and community leaders.

The group officially released the plan in September 2018.

“It’s more of our guide to say where we’re moving and our measuring stick for how well we’re addressing,” Livingstone said. “It’s a collective effort done through our partners that United Way funds.”

The plan provides information representing the levels of poverty in Hall County. People can also see local and national data points regarding the state of education, health care and finances.

The plan reveals among other information that 70 percent of students in Hall County are not reading proficiently by the third grade, 28 percent of the county’s population has limited access to stores that have fresh fruits and vegetables, and 40 percent of the county’s residents struggle to meet basic needs like food, clothing, shelter and health care.

The percentages respectively were drawn from the Georgia Kids Count from the Georgia Family Connection Partnership; Hall County Vision 2030 Healthcare Consortium, Children’s Health Snapshot; and the 2016 Federal Poverty Guideline, Census Reporter.

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Community leaders met to learn more about United Way of Hall County’s Community Game Plan during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Healthcare Committee meeting on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. - photo by Kelsey Podo

The U.S. Census Bureau released in its July 1, 2018 report that Hall County’s poverty population reached 13.3 percent.

Liz Coates, executive director of Good News Clinics, said the work leading up to the plan’s unveiling proved “pretty intense.”

She said the committee examined data that its members brought to the table, and decided the priorities for Hall County and for the committee.

To address poverty, the steps are three-fold.

“We want to support what’s already working, expand on where we need to expand and invent new services to fill gaps,” Coates said.

Through examining the health portion of the plan, Coates said the committee kept turning its discussion toward mental and behavioral health. As a result, a subcommittee was formed to specifically address those issues.

Livingstone read from the plan that the population-to-mental health provider ratio in Hall County is 1,350-to-1, compared to 330-to-1 for top U.S. performers.

Coates said having data at her fingertips regarding poverty in Hall County has already become a crucial tool at Good News Clinics.

“I can talk to donors and say we have a counseling program at Good News Clinics, but it’s clearly not enough because look at what the data says,” she said. “We can sort of help donors see that there’s a bigger problem in Hall County that we’re helping to solve, and invite people to be a part of that.”

Since she started using United Way’s Community Game Plan, Coates said her nonprofit’s counseling program has doubled.

“The big word in all caps for this whole thing is collaboration,” Coates said. “The community, nonprofits, the government and the private sector are all beginning to collaborate for the first time and it’s really exciting.”