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SafetySmart program to add neighborhood watches with grant

LILBURN -- A grant will help Lilburn residents form neighborhood and business watches.

SafetySmart Lilburn, a volunteer organization in the western Gwinnett city, received a $14,000 grant from the Neighborhood Fund, which is part of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.

According to a press release, $5,000 of the grant will help develop eight new neighborhood and business watches in the area, with the remaining funds going to commuity coaching provided by Community Foundation affiliates.

"This is a great opportunity for our grassroots organization to plan for future funding and learn from excellent mentors to make our efforts sustainable," SafetySmart board member Kathy Rice said. The organization has helped start several neighborhood watches in the past, along with working to increase community involvement and encourage communication between law enforcement and residents. She said the group will continue developing programs to improve safety in the 30047 ZIP code.

The organization formed in 2010 because of "radical changes" in the community that have created a sense of decreased safety and connectedness among residents, the press release said. In the past 12 years, the area has seen an 80 percent turnover in the population and changes in demographics. Neighborhood watches, the release said, have allowed people to meet their neighbors and built connections in the community.

That allows for people to notice when actions seem unusual and also has allowed the community to become a friendlier and safer, the release said.

"This grant will help increase the reach of SafetySmart and strengthen our efforts in the Lilburn community," said Margot Ashley, the association's president. "We are looking forward to continued work with the residents of the 30047 area as we jointly create the safest community in Georgia."

To contact SafetySmart for more information, to receive newsletters, attend meetings or volunteer, visit the website at www.safetysmartlilburn.org, or send an email to info.sslinc@yahoo.com. SafetySmart Board meets on the second Thursday of each month at Lilburn City Hall in the conference room at 6:45 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to help with upcoming events, such as Gwinnett Great Days of Service, a local Public Safety Festival and Lilburn Daze.