Archway program eyeing county

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Decatur County is one of three southwest Georgia counties being considered for participation in the University of Georgia’s Archway Partnership.

The remaining two counties under consideration for inclusion in the program are Grady and Brooks counties.

Started in 2005 as a pilot program in Moultrie and Colquitt County, there are now eight communities, at any given time, participating in the initiative that “acts as a common table, where community leaders and groups can come together to discuss needs of their community. Archway’s position as an unbiased, external facilitator allows different groups from across each community to collaborate in ways not previously seen.”

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Mel Garber, director of the Archway Partnership, along with Steve Dempsey, associate vice president for Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia, met with a group of local elected officials, community leaders and educational leaders at the county commission office Monday afternoon to discuss the overview of the program.

“We wanted a program in place that could increase access by communities to UGA and higher educational resources and make it easier to access those resources around community-identified priority needs.” Garber explained.

If chosen for the program, a facilitator, or Archway professional would be located in Decatur County for a minimum of several years and work with various groups and committees to address needs and opportunities within the community. Typically, the facilitator would set up a workspace in the county’s cooperative extension office.

The chosen community would provide $50,000 annually to help fund the partnership. In return, Archway would utilize the resources of colleges, schools and universities from throughout the state to address local issues. The Archway leadership encourages as many entities and organizations from throughout the county to participate in funding the program.

If chosen for the program, The Archway Partnership and Decatur County/Bainbridge would agree to a partnership agreement and recruitment for the local facilitator would begin. After the facilitator is identified and hired, the program would then start with the selection of a five to seven-person executive committee that would gather resources necessary for the process.