03/31/13 — DGDC turns some activities over to other groups

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DGDC turns some activities over to other groups

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 31, 2013 1:50 AM

Tasked with taking more of an economic development focus on downtown, the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. has farmed out several of its programs to local community groups and civic organizations.

It's an effort that actually began last fall as the Wayne County Public Library took charge of the teddy bear picnic in October -- an event it will sponsor again this year. The others are the Optimist Club, which will handle the annual ice cream social in June, and The Partnership for Children of Wayne County, which will hold the spring teddy bear picnic on April 16.

The one program that did not get picked up was the historical trolley tours, which are held twice a year. However, Meg Gernaat, promotion coordinator for the DGDC, said that it is not too late for a group to step up take those over. The holiday trolley rides, are not affected.

Ms. Gernaat explained the reason they approached local organizations to take over the activities, though, was two-fold. One, she said, they wanted to see them continue. And two, she said, they are hoping that by involving more organizations they will be able to cast a wider net to draw people downtown.

"I told everyone taking over our programs that we really want them to make it their own," she said. "We really see this a way to get more people into downtown. We thought it would be a good way to get some new faces involved in our downtown."

And in many way, for the organizations involved, taking over these events was a natural extension of their missions.

Valerie Wallace, assistant executive director of the Partnership for Children of Wayne County, explained that for them, sponsoring the teddy bear picnic in April just made sense.

"That is the week of the young child, focusing on early child care and education" she said. "We felt like that was a good time for to involve our child care facilities, our stay-at-home parents and anyone else who works with young children."

The event, which will be held at the Cornerstone Commons downtown from noon to 1 p.m., will feature a storytime, children's songs and special visits from several popular costumed characters, such as Dora the Explorer.

Children attending also will be planting a pinwheel garden in recognition of child abuse prevention.

Ms. Wallace explained they have sent out fliers inviting all of their child care facility partners to bring their 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, as well as any others who want to join them.

"We're hoping that they will come on down, bring a picnic lunch or a snack and participate in this event with us. It'll just be a fun time," she said.

A second teddy bear picnic will then be held in the fall in October, also on the Cornerstone Commons, sponsored by the Wayne County Public Library.

"It's a form of outreach to the community," said Nicolle Robbins, head of children's services. "Promoting childhood literacy is one of primary goals. Children who are exposed to reading at an early age do better in school and are better prepared for life."

She said their event is primarily a storytime.

"We're always looking for an opportunity to reach into the community," she said.

It was a similar motivation for the Optimist Club when it agreed to take over the Ice Cream Social, held in June.

"Our motto is 'Friend of Youth,' so much of what we do is dealing with the youth in our community. And when the Downtown Goldsboro folks presented this to us, we were definitely interested in doing it," said club President Bill Edgerton.

The details, he said, are still being worked out, but he said, he hopes to work with the same partners as in the past and keep much of the same basic format.

One thing that will likely change, however, is the pet parade component.

"They've been having a pet parade and we're more interested in kids, so we'll probably do more with them," Edgerton said.

Hosting the event also fits in with the Optimist Club's new focus on downtown as they just moved into a new home in January -- the Edgerton building at 205 E. Walnut St., which Edgerton said he believes is connected to his family in some fashion.

He said they're excited about being downtown and explained that the move was made so the club could do all of the computer refurbishing work for its Computers 4 Kids program under one roof.

"For this program we needed our own space," he said.

Best of all, though, having the facility downtown and hosting the popular downtown event, he hopes will help expand the club's name and outreach efforts.

"A lot of people in town, when they hear about the Optimist Club, they've never heard of us," Edgerton said. "But we're always open to any new programs for children."