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Editorial: Falling into a new season of gratitude
Surviving storm tops a list of community's recent blessings
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Third-grader Tyler Robinson uses one of the new computers Sept. 19 afternoon at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier's Positive Place club during the grand opening of the club's new computer lab. International Game Technology donated the computers through its After School Advantage program. - photo by Scott Rogers

As the calendar turns to fall today and we await the cooler weather and colorful leaves it brings, the equinox gives us reasons for thanks and much to celebrate. So we touch on a few items of note in our headlines of late that are worthy of acknowledgment:

As the final toll is tallied over the impact of Tropical Storm Irma, it’s clear most of North Georgia has a lot to be thankful for.

Those who suffered serious damage to a home, business or vehicle surely have a cross to bear, and there was loss of life from the storm in our area. But for most of us, Irma merely caused a few days of inconvenience without power, easy travel or school classes. A few events were moved around and local governments did their parts to clean up the mess and handle emergencies effectively.

In all, 65 percent of county residents lost power during the storm and 80 percent of roads were obstructed by trees and debris. Yet there were no deaths or injuries reported in Hall, except for a few injuries, most suffered during cleanup efforts.

There was some criticism of the utilities from those whose power was slow to be restored, much of it directed at Georgia Power. In its defense, that company serves customers in the whole state and had spread its trucks and crews out near the coast as well to handle outages there. It’s easy to second-guess how that was handled, and customers have every right to do so.

But as more storms follow and news continues of the devastation seen in the Caribbean, the Florida Keys and other areas, it’s good to know that power outages were, for the most part, the biggest problem we faced.

The annual Shore Sweep on Lake Lanier is set for Saturday aimed at pulling tons of trash from in and around the lake. The sweep was well-timed this year, as it comes a couple of weeks after Irma’s 50 mph winds blew a lot more junk into the lake and shoreline.

Dozens of volunteers will fan out along the shore to haul in massive chunks of Styrofoam off docks, plus tires, coolers, cans, broken water toys and any number of other items left bobbing in the waves.

Keeping a lake of 38,000 acres and 540 miles of shoreline clean is a big undertaking. We applaud the Lake Lanier Association for its advocacy and efforts to keep the region’s shining jewel a bit shinier for both residents and visitors, and we thank all volunteers who will help make Saturday’s effort a success.

Another benefit to our community is any plan that takes those serving time for crimes and helps them become productive citizens. Such is the goal of the new welding shop program at the Hall County Correctional Institute, where accountability court participants can learn a valuable trade before leaving prison.

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Governor Nathan Deal chats with visitors to Tuesday afternoon's grand opening of the Hall County Correctional Institute's welding shop. The shop can provide inmates with a skillset that will attract employers and hopefully lessen the probability of an offender returning to prison. - photo by Scott Rogers

The shop was dedicated Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal, a former prosecutor whose efforts to reform the state’s criminal justice system might be the chief accomplishment of his eight years in office.

The Re-entry Accountability Court Transition program began in 2014 to steer nonviolent offenders into substance abuse treatment and vocational training. Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller oversees the program in partnership with Lanier Technical College and WorkSource Georgia.

Evidence shows a key way to help lawbreakers avoid becoming repeat offenders is to break the cycle of drugs and crime that landed them in prison. Teaching them a trade that is in high demand gives them an opportunity to earn a good living when their sentences are up and live productive lives that will deter them from returning to crime. 

It’s among many similar worthwhile programs that should be expanded elsewhere to empty prisons and put people to work.

On the same day, Deal was at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier to help dedicate its $16,000 computer lab filled with 40 Chromebooks donated by International Game Technology. The company’s After School Advantage program has provided computers for 18 such labs in Georgia and 291 worldwide.

The governor was joined by first lady Sandra Deal, who as a former teacher can appreciate what the lab may mean to lower-income students who have limited or no access to computers at home. We applaud IGT and its efforts to help them boost their knowledge in a high-tech age.

And we join in offering condolences and celebrating the life of Jean Ash Gruhn, who passed away Tuesday at 86. As widow of the late Gainesville football coach Bobby Gruhn, and mother of Lakeview Academy coach Matthew Gruhn, her ties to sports fans in town are well-established.

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Jean Gruhn

But Jean Gruhn made her own mark outside of her football family, serving as a teacher and a coach herself of cheerleading, basketball and tennis for 30 years at GHS. She was known for her care and concern for students by those whose lives she touched. While her husband was serving as a mentor to young men, she was doing the same for young women.

And she had one other big lasting legacy: She commissioned “The Rock” across from the high school entrance that has been painted over the years with spirited messages by the Red Elephant faithful.

Those who knew and appreciated her will miss her dearly, and we honor her wonderful life spent in the service of Gainesville’s youth.

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.

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