04/22/07 — Advocates looking to community for agenda

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Advocates looking to community for agenda

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on April 22, 2007 2:00 AM

Advocates of Goldsboro and Wayne County hope Saturday marked a new beginning.

The group wants residents to share their ideas on how build a better community for future generations -- and its members want that message to spread much farther than the doors of the First African Baptist Church, where they held this weekend's meeting.

"If we can get 100,000 people thinking like that, we can achieve great things," Advocate Jimmie Ford told the gathering of about 20 people.

And the Advocates, a group formed in 2000 to keep a proactive watch on issues and actions affecting Wayne County, are not just concerned with the condition of the county's schools, although that, admittedly, is a major focus.

"If we love people, we will meet them at their point of need," Advocate Shirley Edwards said. "Education is an important issue, but what about crime and the hungry folks?"

There are many issues facing the county and its municipalities, Mrs. Edwards said. Bringing together the people who are affected by those issues and allowing them a chance to discuss how to make improvements is the only way to find a workable solution, Ford said.

"If we continue to do the same things, we'll get the same results. We need to talk and come together to improve," he said.

Mrs. Edwards said she believes it is time for the county's residents to take responsibility for their community and the conditions in it. As citizens, each person should be willing to stay informed on the issues discussed in the neighborhoods and at local government meetings. Residents can then begin to seriously work together toward a common goal, she said.

"Accept responsibility. You are your brother's keeper," Mrs. Edwards said. "Responsibility is a birth right. Each of us have a calling and it's our responsibility to answer that."

Some people should be working to help reduce domestic violence or to help children who live in low-income neighborhoods find a better life, she said. Volunteers also could help by doing something as simple as taking an elderly neighbor to the grocery store, she said.

Mentoring young people who are looking for a role model is a good way to help build a stronger community, Advocate Fred Shadding said. Single-family homes or homes where both parents work full-time jobs has led to a decline in the number of adult role models for children, he said. Some of those children likely will drop out of school and fail to become productive members of society, he pointed out.

More children need the lessons of respect, integrity, character and responsibility than ever before, Shadding said.

Audience member Cathy Cogdell said responsibility is a two-way street for children and their parents.

"We have parents that don't know how to be parents," said Mrs. Cogdell, who is a former educator in the county schools.

By spreading the importance of the family's role in building character, Advocate Ulis Dawson said he hopes the community can take steps in the right direction. But that first step will need to be made by each member of every family in Wayne County, he emphasized.

"If we want Wayne County to be a good place to live in, play in and have our children grow in, we have to do something different than we've done in the past," Dawson said.

And it is also time for people to stop pointing the blame at others and to take responsibility for their own actions, he added.

"We can criticize the school board, the county commissioners, the City Council and others for not being leaders to correct these matters, but if we refuse to establish sound virtues, good values and Christian principles in our homes and for our children, all else will be for naught," Dawson said.

In the coming months, the advocates plan to meet more often to continue discussing how to improve the community, and they will want the residents' help. But they said they also hope the community will hear their message and begin taking the step toward change.

"We need the whole county to come together -- all segments of the community and all citizens," Dawson said.