HILTONIA — The Jesse Williams Memorial Park was dedicated in Hiltonia, as many townspeople and officials gathered for the ribbon cutting and presentation of new playground equipment.
Almost two years ago, Hiltonia adopted a mission statement, said June Forehand, wife of Mayor Gerry Forehand.
“Hiltonia desires to be a community that all its citizens could be proud of and take part in,” she said.
So far this year, efforts to follow through have included putting up welcome signs and planning the annual fall festival that was held Saturday.
The project of developing the Jesse Williams Memorial Park is the most substantial project to date, Forehand said.
Many hands “breathed life” into the project, she said, including city employees Darell Walker, Bob Robinson and Matt Haley who put the playground equipment together. Screven County Sheriff Mike Kile sent a work crew to help with installation of the playground. The contribution alone saved almost $4,000 in installation fees, Forehand said. AMI Kids of Sylvania built picnic tables that were placed in the park, and Todd Wall and his classes at Screven County High made the benches.
Forehand also said Heidi Jeffers, executive director of the Screven Chamber, offered encouragement and support to the project.
Also, Operation Roundup from Planters Electric haled finance some of the project. Matt Brinson, general manager of Planters, explained how the company’s Operation Roundup works. Unless a customer opts out of the program, Brinson said each participating Planters EMC member’s bill is rounded up to the nearest whole dollar amount. The extra change then goes into a fund that supports charitable and educational programs within a community.
Although individuals contribute a small amount, the change can add up. Brinson said about $72,000 per year is given back to the Screven community through Operation Roundup.
“This is just the beginning of what will take place here,” said Edwin Lovett, Planters Telephone Foundation board member. The foundation was begun to create a way to give funds to projects like this, he said.
“It may look like a small accomplishment,” Forehand said, referring to the new park, “but it represents hope — hope to accomplish much more.”
She said Brandon Jones, architecture instructor at Screven High, will help with plans for furthering Hiltonia’s face lift. Classes will start with facades in the town, she said, and more renovations will come at a later date.
Mayor Pro Tem Danny Newton recognized the family of Jesse Williams and dedicated the park in his name. Having served on council for 34 years, Newton worked with Williams for 20 of those years when he too served on the council, until he passed away in 2006. Newton called him a cornerstone of the community for his dedication and service.
“He was proud of the community he lived in,” Newton said, “and he wanted others to feel the same way about Hiltonia.”
Newton challenged the community to care for the new park as “Mr. Jesse” would.