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Our Neighbor make strides with bookstore
Hall Area Transit soon will help physically handicapped workers get to work
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Next Chapter Book Store open house
When: 4-6 p.m. Aug. 6
Where: Inside Main Street Market, 118 Main St., Gainesville

Our Neighbor opened a used bookstore on the Gainesville square to give young adults a place to work, and now Hall Area Transit is giving them a way to get there.

Starting Sept. 1, Hall Area Transit will start making stops near Randy’s House on Prior Street, where the organization offers housing to physically handicapped men and women. Several of the residents started working at Next Chapter Book Store at Main Street Market but had to rely on others to get them there.

“One of the most important goals of public transit is to ensure that our residents have access to employment and education, and it’s of utmost importance to people who are challenged with mobility,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Hall Area Transit and the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center. “Our priority is to be as inclusive as possible, and when they contacted us, it just took us examining the route to make some small adjustments.”

The route re-configuration was a “no-brainer,” she said.

“We can not only pick up eager passengers but also help them connect with employment. We’re hoping to be as good of a neighbor to them as Our Neighbor is to the community,” she said. “The change didn’t increase the time or cost of running the route. It just makes sense.”

The change means a lot to the guys who work at the bookstore, said Jean Hare, mom to Randy’s House resident Jason Hare.

“He’s had so many opportunities and been able to meet so many people,” she said. “Anything for him to get out in the community is wonderful. When he works two days a week in the bookstore, helping to look up prices on the computer, customers come in and talk. It really gives them an outlet for interaction.”

The bookstore is hosting an open house 4-6 p.m. Aug. 6 and several local authors will be signing books.

“I think it’ll be great because Gainesville residents can be proud of their local authors who have written about their experiences here,” said Michael McNeilly, a children’s book author.

McNeilly published a book last month about Amos McCool, a character created by his grandmother when she told him bedtime stories. He carried on the tradition by weaving morals and lessons into the tales for his two daughters.

“I’ve lived in Gainesville all but two years of my life, and some of the stories I write are true about some of what I’ve learned, and I’ve learned those lessons here,” he said.

Harv Nowland, a former Gainesville pastor and former staff writer for Larry Burkett at Christian Financial Ministries, recently released a third book in a series of historical novels about his family. He was invited to be a part of the open house when he donated a stack of books to the store, including one of his own.

“I’ve known the Our Neighbor family for years, so I’m very willing to be there,” he said. “I think it’s a great way to get in touch with local authors and get them involved. The bookstore is in a great spot, and some of these guys have never had a job at all.”

Our Neighbor is also welcoming a new executive director to the team. Martin White traveled to Georgia to be with his fiancee Kay Blackstock. White was the chief executive officer for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in Virginia, which was chosen as the top food bank in the nation for 2009, and served as the executive director of the Staunton Augusta Chamber of Commerce.

“Our Neighbor is a mission that everyone can truly appreciate,” White said. “We all, no matter who we are, want the chance for independence. It’s amazing how the community has already come out in support at the bookstore, and the opening gives another opportunity for interaction.”

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