Downtown award winners honored at conference

DULUTH - The Georgia Downtown Association and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs honored organizations and individuals for outstanding achievement and improvement in Georgia's traditional downtowns. Presentations took place at the annual Georgia Downtown Conference Oct. 5 through 7 at the Madison Morgan Cultural Center.

The Georgia Downtown Awards were established to recognize individuals, downtown programs and businesses that have demonstrated efforts in making a difference in their downtowns.

Kathryn Willis, Duluth council member Jim Dugan and Alisa Willams, downtown manager for Duluth, were on hand to accept these awards. The city of Duluth was the only one presented with two awards.

Willis, of Main Street Duluth, was awarded most valuable volunteer.

Best Downtown Special Event was awarded to Main Street Duluth's "Barefoot in the Park.

Wiggins receives Mason award

ATLANTA - Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful Director Connie Wiggins was surprised Wednesday with Keep Georgia Beautiful's highest honor for directors, the Barbara Mason Award.

Wiggins was honored for her leadership during the annual Keep Georgia Beautiful awards lunch at the Georgia World Congress Center.

As the director of Gwinnett's program for the past 20 years, Wiggins has worked to create an environmentally friendly community despite the county's tremendous growth.

Wiggins said she is most proud of a program to teach environmental education in every year of a child's education. So far, 13 classes of students in Gwinnett County have been a part of the program from kindergarten through 12th grade, she said.

In the past year, efforts at graffiti eradication have surged because of a program to use county inmates, and Wiggins was involved in this summer's Operation Fixing Broken Windows, a program aimed at improving the quality of life in Gwinnett's declining areas.

Red Cross pulls out of center

LAWRENCEVILLE - Four weeks after loaning the former Wal-Mart retail center on Grayson Highway out to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief, the county is taking back control of the facility, according to officials.

The American Red Cross Joint Recovery Center closed Oct. 7, but Red Cross workers remained in the building to complete paperwork and other functions associated with the services. Those workers left Wednesday.

Commissioners will be able to focus on future plans for the facility, which include a public health clinic and supplemental office and storage space for county departments, according to a press release.

At the facility, the Red Cross opened more than 11,000 cases and distributed more than $14 million in assistance to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided information to more than 5,000 people and the Georgia Division of Family and Children's Services opened more than 3,000 cases.

Gwinnett Gab appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.