Better Hometown Day Set for May 7th Preserving the past, celebrating the present and planning for the future- the many volunteers of the Summerville Better Hometown Program are preparing for the fourth annual Better Hometown Day. The event will be held on Wednesday, May 7th at the Summerville City Hall on Georgia Avenue. County and city residents are invited to drop by between 11 a. m. and 5 p.m. to share ideas and suggestions for the improvement of Summerville and to learn more about the Better Hometown effort. Volunteers who have served during the past year will also be recognized on this day.Better Hometown Designation
In January 2000, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs designated Summerville a “Better Hometown Community.” Cities earning this designation with populations over 5000 are designated Main Street Cities , such as Rome and Dalton, while smaller cities are designated Better Hometowns Communities, such as Summerville and Social Circle. For the past two years, the local program has passed standards of ten criteria set by National Main Street and achieved that accreditation for the city of Summerville. Such designations are viewed positively by state and federal grant review boards when awarding money locally. The designation also provides Summerville with the support systems of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs as well as the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design and School of Business Development and Outreach.
With Summerville’s designation came the requirement for city officials to support a local volunteer program which would work for the improvement of the downtown Summerville area. Based on the National Main Street Four Point Approach , the Summerville Better Hometown Program has four committees- Organization, Design, Promotion and Economic Restructuring. This four point approach has worked successfully for the economic growth and historic preservation of hundreds of cities around the nation.
Since receiving the prestigious designation in 2000, the Summerville Better Hometown Program has worked on many community projects. Most visible is the development of Willow Spring Park for which the committee worked on grant applications for funds, supervised choice of landscape plants and materials, and labored daily on the site with city and state workers for the installation and maintenance. Other projects have included selection and, with the help of Summerville’s city maintenance, placement of downtown street accessories such as planters, seasonal flowers, benches and banners.Tourism and Events
Promoting seasonal festivals and activities has been a part of the volunteer effort. The Summerville Better Hometown Program has supported the local tourism effort by promoting the annual Steam Into Summerville Railroad Days and developing festivals such as the “Steamin’ Hot Stew and Chili Cook-off”, the Sequoyah Art and Craft Festival, and this year’s very popular “Pets in the Park.” In 2004, the Better Hometown volunteers created a celebration of Chattooga County’s agrarian heritage with “Down Home Farm Day” and established it as a tradition to be held each year on the first Saturday in June. Better Hometown has been a supporter of The Victorian Christmas Guild which provided artistic and historically correct Victorian Era Christmas decorations in downtown windows.
Training Young Volunteers
Area youth have aided the local Better Hometown efforts in recent years. Since 2000, Chattooga County 4-H members and leaders have assisted each season with planting downtown. The group has also built autumn displays at city welcome signs, parks, and depot. Lessons on local history and tourism were discussed with the youth during such outings. In addition, area youth have participated in local food pantry projects by assisting with collection of food at Dowdy Park on national “Make A Difference Day.” Utilizing funds raised in the annual stew and chili cook-off, Chattooga High School student council members selected foods and delivered $400 worth of food items to the Chattooga County Food pantry in 2007.
Economic development of the historic downtown area is a requirement given to the Better Hometown Program by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The local effort has offered to improve downtown storefronts with local free design plans and grants for improvements in keeping with historic preservation. Several visible improvements have been made in downtown buildings over the past eight years with the guidance of the Better Hometown Design Committee. In addition, the program has begun an effort to educated the public regarding the need for preservation of our “sense of place”, the surroundings which make Summerville unique and unlike any other place on earth. Each year, the program has sponsored projects to instill civic pride, such as building autumn displays with local Chattooga County 4-H students. The program has promoted both education and historic preservation by supporting restoration of the railroad depot, by supporting the historic courthouse display, and by providing local information about the National Register of Historic Places.
In February 2008, the Summerville Better Hometown Board of Directors made appointments for the year including the following: Manager, Nell Farrar; Chairman Organization Committee, Mike Dillard; Chairman Economic Restructuring Committee, Bill Moll; Chairman Design Committee, Fran Myers; and Chairman Promotion Committee, Andrea Hall Hayes.
For further information regarding the Better Hometown Program, contact any of the committee members listed above, plan to attend the upcoming Better Hometown Day on May 7th at City Hall, or contact Summerville City Hall at 706-859-0900 or www.summervillega.org