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GGC opens Care Pantry to help students struggling with food insecurity

Georgia Gwinnett College students are getting a new place to visit when they need some food.

The college recently announced the opening of its Care Pantry, which will stock nonperishable food items and dairy products. The pantry is designed to serve GGC students who have a valid GGC Claw Card and offer them access to fresh vegetables, fruits, proteins and dairy products.

“The Care Pantry allows GGC to step in to assist members of our Grizzly family who are unable to obtain enough food to sustain a healthy lifestyle,” said GGC President Jann L. Joseph, who spoke at the pantry’s ribbon cutting on July 22. “The percentage of students who face food insecurity is surprisingly staggering, and we are excited to contribute to the many initiatives around the country designed to alleviate hunger.”

The pantry is a partnership between the college and the Lawrenceville Co-Op Food Bank Ministry and they are working with community and campus partners to offer prepackaged food to students. School officials said 81% of GGC students qualify for some type of financial aid and 52% of them qualify for Pell grants.

GGC highlighted a survey of students that was conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in 2018. That survey showed 37% of students in Georgia said they had “low or very low” food security. A nationwide report released by the center in 2020 showed 39% of students who participated in a 2019 survey said the were “food insecure.”

GGC’s Institutional Research and Analysis office subsequently conducted a survey of its own in 2020, which showed 43.6% of students identified struggles to meet needs, 24.5% were worried about whether they had enough food to get by until they had the ability to buy more and 19% said they knew someone who did not have enough food to eat.

The food that is being stocked in the pantry is chosen based on dietary restrictions and balanced diet recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition to the food, students will receive educational materials that illustrate healthy eating choices and highlight nutritional information.

“Our food pantry contributes to the holistic success of students and is a welcomed relief for those who desperately need this service,” Joseph said.

Lawrenceville historian Mary Frazier Long remembered for devotion to chronicling city's past

Mary Frazier Long was either the ultimate opening act, or the person you did not want to follow if you were in the lineup of speakers at a Gwinnett Historical Society meeting.

Beverly Paff, the historical society’s president, said Long offered entertaining tales of Lawrenceville’s history at the meetings, pulling stories from old newspapers around Gwinnett that were published upwards of a century or more earlier — and reporting to the group about types of stories were reported on.

Sometimes, it was an article about livestock wandering through downtown Lawrenceville. Other times, it was about people who passed through the county seat and thought they’d visited “Eden.”

But, Paff said they were always a highlight of the historical society’s meetings.

“She would give us a little synopsis of things that happened in the different towns in Gwinnett County throughout the years and she was a hard act to follow,” Paff said. “Whether it was me or the speaker who was speaking that night, it is hard to follow Mary because she is so entertaining.”

Long, who was a lifelong Lawrenceville resident, died on July 19 at the age of 89. She was both the city’s historian as well as the Gwinnett Historical Society’s historian, and wrote a book on the city’s history, “About Lawrenceville,” as well as a book on the history of Lawrenceville schools, called appropriately enough “About Lawrenceville Schools.”

She and her husband, Dean, also co-wrote “Old Georgia Privies,” a look at old outhouses — those are old outdoor bathrooms, for the young folks who aren’t familiar with the term — located around the state.

But, Long was an educator at heart.

She was a teacher for 34 years in DeKalb County Schools, served on a statewide education task force under former Gov. Jimmy Carter, was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma educators sorority and was a former president of the Georgia Retired Educators Association.

“(The Georgia Retired Educators Association) built a new building up (in Flowery Branch) and Mary helped them establish it and get items for their archives,” Paff said. “She really did stay involved in education.”

Paff, who considered Long a role model, said Long also went around to speak at various civic groups and continuously raised funds for a scholarship she created at Lawrenceville First Baptist Church to help education students who were working on their master’s degrees.

“She wanted to keep up her speaking engagements so she could get donations for the scholarship fund,” the historical society’s president said.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought Long’s public presentations to a halt, but she had resumed attending meetings of the historical society and making presentations there in March.

It was her dedication to preserving history that many people remember Long for, however. In addition to writing two books related to Lawrenceville’s history, she also spoke on trolley tours that used to go around the city and gave the presentations on the old one-room school houses in Gwinnett County during the annual Elisha Winn Fair.

“Mary is just the most delightful person I’ve ever met and she knows so much about history, especially the history of the city of Lawrenceville,” former Gwinnett Historical Society President Betty Warbington said. “It’s just amazing her memory — and her wit is outstanding. When you mix historical facts with wit, it’s always delightful.

“We’re going to miss her so much in our society. She was so entertaining.”

Lawrenceville City Manager Chuck Warbington, who is Betty’s son, said the city had lost “a great friend” with Long’s death. In addition to being the city’s historian, she was also a member of Lawrenceville’s Heritage Trail Committee and had been recognized with one of the city’s Heritage Trail medallions.

“She is a fixture in the city and was a friend of the city and a historian that a lot of folks have always gone to to look at: ‘OK, what happened here,’” he said.

Long’s family will receive visitors at her home from 5 until 7 p.m. on Aug. 6, and her memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 7 at Lawrenceville First Baptist Church, which is located at 165 S. Clayton St. in Lawrenceville.

Gwinnett school board holding called meeting Friday to vote on superintendent hire

The Gwinnett County Board of Education is set to vote to formally hire Calvin Watts to be Gwinnett County Public Schools’ new superintendent on Friday afternoon.

The district announced the board has scheduled a called meeting for 5 p.m. at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center, located at 437 Old Peachtree Road in Suwanee, to go into executive session and discuss the proposed contract for Watts’ employment. After the executive session ends, the board will come out into open session for vote on the hire.

If hired, as expected, Watts would be the first African-American hired to lead Georgia’s largest school district.

Watts is a former GCPS administrator who has served as the Kent School District’s superintendent in Kent, Wash., since 2015. The board announced earlier this month that he was the sole finalist to replace outgoing Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who leaves the district at the end of this week after 25 years at GCPS’ helm.

State law required the board to wait 14 days after announcing Watts as the finalist before it could vote on hiring him.

The Kent School District had an enrollment of 25,719 students and 42 schools and academies during the 2020-2021 school year, according to that district’s “Fast Facts” website. By comparison, GCPS has nearly 180,000 students and 141 schools and support facilities.

Prior to becoming Kent’s superintendent, however, Watts was a principal at GCPS and Archdiocese of Atlanta schools. He was also GCPS’ assistant superintendent for school improvement and operations for seven years, from July 2008 until May 2015, and the district’s area director of human resources staffing for more than a year and a half, from November 2005 until June 2007.

He was a teacher in Atlanta Public Schools, Carrollton City Schools, Archdiocese of Atlanta schools and Seattle (Wash.) Public Schools as well.

Watts is expected to be at the board meeting on Friday.