PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE: Leaders wanted for Gwinnett's future

Ellen Gerstein

Ellen Gerstein

Calling all community leaders. Do you want to make a difference in your community and neighborhood? Would you like to meet the movers and shakers in Gwinnett that can help you make it happen? Then you need to apply for the next class of the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute that kicks off in August.

The Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute (GNLI) is a program of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, a non-profit organization addressing the Health & Human Service needs in Gwinnett. GNLI has been operating for more than 19 years, making a huge difference in the county.

“GNLI was started as a way to get every day citizen’s involved in improving their neighborhoods and communities,” said Nicole Love Hendrickson, GNLI Program Director. “I have seen a number of every day citizen’s transformed once they go through the training. They have a calling to serve and once they graduate, they stay committed to making Gwinnett a better place for a long time.”

GNLI is an eight-month program that meets on one Saturday a month and begins with a two-day weekend retreat. The Institute provides participants a training program, with a curriculum provided by the UGA Fanning Institute focusing on five core areas: understanding community leadership, effective communication, group decision making, building communities through collaboration and leading community change.

One of the most valuable components of the program and a requirement of graduation is a community improvement project, which allows participants to put their training to work, all while making a practical, tangible difference in the community. Projects range from neighborhood revitalization, to programs for youth and even the creation of new policies that impact communities.

Some of the recent projects include the organization of a caregiver’s conference, the development of a food distribution website, transportation initiatives and a youth safety curriculum.

“Projects like these help better our local community and give participants an up-close view of the challenges but also the opportunities to come up with solutions,” Hendrickson said. “Gwinnett County has poverty, homelessness, a growing immigrant and senior population – issues no different than DeKalb or Fulton. However, there are less resources and infrastructure to address these needs. It is the citizen’s who ultimately have to take action to address these issues. GNLI provides that forum.

“There are citizens at all levels who are interested and want to get involved because they believe they can make a difference. We [GNLI] bring them together, build their knowledge, increase their networks and hopefully empower them to keep it going.”

As Executive Director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, there is a special place in my heart for the GNLI program.

There are several leadership programs that exist in this community. They are all valuable and special. GNLI is very special to our organization and community because of the direct impact in underserved communities. For 19 years, we’ve been inspiring civic engagement and community improvement. I feel honored to have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful community leaders year after year.

For more information and applying to the 2014-2015 class of the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute visit our website at www.gnli.org. You can also contact Nicole Love Hendrickson at nicole@gwinnettcoalition.org or call 678-377-4137. We are currently accepting nominations and applications. Spaces are limited, so apply today.

Ellen Gertstein is Executive Director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.People Helping People is a publication of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services.For more information contact Ellen Gerstein - ellen@gwinnettcoalition.org or at 770-995-3339.