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Saturday events aimed at violence prevention, better paths for youth
‘Securing Statesboro’ forum 11-1 at YMCA; ‘Village Builders’ drop-in 1-4 at Honey Bowen

Two separate events this Saturday, Sept. 10 – the One Boro Violence Prevention Task Force’s second annual Securing Statesboro forum and a drop-in community info event for the Statesboro Village Builders Initiative youth program – support related goals, according to Mayor Jonathan McCollar.

Both events are open to the public. The violence prevention forum, whose full title this year is “Securing Statesboro: Beyond the Numbers” will begin at 11 a.m. and may last until 1 p.m. at the Statesboro Family YMCA, 408 Clairborne Ave.

Facilitated small-group discussions for community residents to share their concerns, from which the task force can gather input, are slated to precede presentations by three local professionals: Keith Wilkey, school social work director and homeless student liaison for the Bulloch County Schools; Jenny Maddi, sexual assault nurse examiner from the Teal House; and Catherine Findley, solicitor-general to the Bulloch County State Court.

Then the Statesboro Village Builders Initiative informational reception, “Welcome to the Village,” will follow immediately, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., in the Honey Bowen Building, 1 Max Lockwood Drive, at Memorial Park on Fair Road. The Village Builders Initiative has nothing to do with literal construction but is a city-budgeted effort to create a youth development program involving mentorship, workforce development and support services for “at-risk” children to young adults.

“If we’re going to really talk about securing our community, we’ve got to recognize that it’s an ‘all of us’ thing, and then we can’t leave our kids behind, because when you look at the crime that’s being committed in our city, if we’re just able to reduce the youth crime in our community, that will help us just that much more,” McCollar said in an interview Tuesday.

“They actually feed each other,” he said of the Violence Prevention Task Force and Village Builders initiatives.


‘Securing Statesboro’

When the mayor and council in October 2020 enacted the Nondiscrimination Ordinance and Equity Package, which had been developed in part and pushed forward by the city-sponsored One Boro Commission, one paragraph mandated that the commission lead a violence prevention effort. This was to involve annual meetings with “stakeholders” from law enforcement agencies, clergy, the school system and “districts disproportionately impacted by violence.” This led to the creation of a continuing task force.

“So this is a community-driven effort to examine violence in all of its forms in Statesboro and Bulloch County and find community-driven solutions to help address issues of violence,” said Stacy Smallwood, Ph.D., current One Boro Commission chair.

Created in 2018, the One Boro Commission, originally the Statesboro Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, consists of volunteers, but its voting members are confirmed in that role by the mayor and council.

Two of One Boro’s members, Johnny Gamble and Suzanne Shurling, co-chair the Violence Prevention Task Force.

“But membership in the task force is open to others, regardless of whether or not they are One Boro members. …,” Smallwood said. “We also have a number of other community members who have different connections to issues related to violence, who have different levels of expertise or just general interest in trying to make Statesboro safer who are also a part of the task force.”

When the Violence Prevention Task Force hosted its first Securing Statesboro forum in March 2021, the presentations delved deep into statistics, including rates of sexual assaults and family violence and police agencies’ number of calls.

As the “Beyond the Numbers” subtitle suggests, this year’s focus is meant to be different, as task force co-chair Suzanne Shurling explained in a comment provided by Layne Phillips, public information officer for the city of Statesboro.

“Often, conversations about community violence get conflated with crime reporting and statistics,” Shurling said. “However, we recognize that violence takes many forms, and not all incidents of violence get reported as crimes. Our goal is to have conversations about how violence manifests in our communities, and recommendations for how we can redress it."


‘Village Welcome’

The Statesboro Village Builders Initiative is brand-new and not fully developed. At McCollar’s request, the budget the city staff presented and the council approved last spring for fiscal year 2023, which opened July 1, earmarks $120,000 for this initiative.

During the Aug. 16 City Council meeting, members by a 3-2 vote, with District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum and District 4 Councilman John Riggs opposed, approved creating a Statesboro Village Builders Initiative program coordinator position in the city payroll plan. The job is listed with a $46,920 minimum and $58,651 midpoint salary.

The city is advertising the position but has not yet filled it.

However, the city’s website already includes a Statesboro Village Builders Initiative page. It features a map of five target areas of the city “identified as having the largest population of at-risk children” and refers to these as “villages,” which will be the initial focus of the program.

The page suggests that volunteers can help by adopting or sponsoring a zone, becoming mentors, raising funds or in other ways.

“This is a big deal for the city of Statesboro because the message that we’re sending is that we’re being intentional about engaging and providing other opportunities for our young people within our community and not just them but the families as well,” McCollar said.

Saturday’s 1-4 p.m. “Welcome to the Village” at the Honey Bowen Building is planned as “an informational community event” with hotdogs and hamburgers to be served, Phillips said.

Statesboro residents, including parents and youth, can come by and learn more about the initiative and share their ideas for it in “one big, open conversation,” she said.

Representatives of local nonprofit organizations, civic groups and churches are especially invited, according to the a promotional flyer.


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