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Posted: June 23, 2012 5:05 p.m.

Cultural happenings benefit our city

Social Circle has a friend indeed. One definition of "friend" listed in the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary is "one that favors or promotes something (as charity)," also, "one attached to another by affection or esteem." Both of these definitions clearly fit the profile of the Social Circle Friends of the Library, an impressive organization that has become increasingly vocal and visible as a cheerleader in support of our library, the W.H. Stanton Memorial Library. As a tangible example of this support, money raised by SCFOL is being used to fund all of the reading and crafts programs for kids this summer, as well as an adult summer reading program.

Social Circle is one of nine libraries within the Uncle Remus Library System. Of the six county members, Walton County is the only one which has more than one location (Loganville, Monroe, Social Circle and soon to open Walnut Grove). Patron visits to the Social Circle Library in the current fiscal year (July 2011-June 2012) amounted to approximately 50,000 visits through April, which is approximately 20 percent of all visits to Walton County libraries during this period and about 11 percent of visits to all libraries within the six county system. The numbers are indicative of the quality of the programs sponsored by FOL in Social Circle.

Social Circle's Friends of the Library, a nonprofit volunteer organization, was organized in 2006 when several members of a local book club made the decision to initiate a Friends program to support and further library participation in our community. Some of the organization's purposes expressed in the by-laws are to "encourage community involvement and support of the library," "assist the library in promoting the knowledge of and participation in library programs," and "raise funds to help meet library needs." Original founders and members of the first SCFOL Board of Directors were Mary Kidd, Dee Joseph, Bonny Knight and Nancy Posner.

Mary Kidd, the first SCFOL Board President, commented that after months of hard work, "they got it going" - and membership grew. She mentioned that some of the earliest projects included sponsoring a party at the end of the children's summer program, purchasing a bike rack, easel and trash receptacles, cleaning seat covers in the children's section and planting Liriope (Monkey Grass) outside the building entrance. Then, as well as currently, funds were raised through membership drives, book sales and fund solicitations.

Under immediate past SCFOL President Norma Reed (2009-2011), the organization pursued a goal of making the library more visible. A movie projector was purchased and various adult events such as adult movies, game nights and line dancing were offered. The organization initiated creative Saturday programs for kids, such as Rodney King's "Kids Build" and Elaine Ryan's craft events. Fundraising through membership drives and annual book sales continued. Reed remembered one fund drive, a loyalty night at Lou's Soda Shop and Grill, where a percent of profits were donated to the Friends. She firmly believes that "the Friends of the Library in Social Circle has a core group of fantastically committed local citizens who care about maintaining and expanding our library and are willing to work to make it happen."

So much for the good old days before the recession and subsequent downturn in the economy reared its ugly head. Now, due to steep increases in state health care costs, members of local governments are required to increase their contributions for library employee health care by almost 50 percent. In addition, deep state funding cuts have forced the system to eliminate the state materials budget (books, magazines, DVDs, etc.). According to library manager Janet King, this could have a devastating impact on our local library programs. She considers herself truly blessed to have the support and assistance of our local SCFOL organization.

The Friends have continued their fundraising through an annual book sale in the fall and, in addition, have piggy-backed onto the annual Better Hometown city-wide yard sale event to conduct a second book sale in the spring. At the most recent yard sale in May, the SCFOL realized approximately $700 in revenue.

The officers of the Friends of the Social Circle Library for the current period are president Kathy Huggins, vice president Nancy Posner, vice secretary Sabrina Ervin, treasurer Kemal Joseph, hospitality chair Nancy East and publicity chair Dee Joseph. The SCFOL is working to plug the ever-growing gaps in the library budget. Huggins stated that, "our continuing challenge is raising funds, as state funding continues to dwindle. We all know that technology has become an integral part of the library, which adds to the financial strain of operating a first class library that caters to the needs of its patrons. Also, we seek to expand our Friends base. The more support from the community - the stronger the library." Please visit the SCFOL website at SocialCircleGaFOL.org and view all the wonderful programs that FOL is making possible in Social Circle with support from its members.

A documentary in the making: last week, Social Circle welcomed the return of Zumafilmz, a film production company from Abilene, TX., which had selected Social Circle as one of six small cities to be included in a documentary film which explores small town life in America. Executive Producer Carol Windham, fellow Producer Ricky Long and their crew returned to Social Circle last week to conduct a second round of interviews to explore in-depth subjects, such as our city's unique qualities, challenges in planning for our future growth, issues in negotiating consensus among disparate groups and reasons for choosing to locate or relocate in Social Circle.

Other cities, in addition to Social Circle, to be included in the documentary are Clark Summit, Pa., a borough with a population of approximately 5,000; Greensburg, Kan., which lost 90 percent of the town caused by a devastating tornado; Anthony, N.M., a newly incorporated border town with Mexico; Port Townsend, Wash., a historic waterfront town north of Seattle; and Windham's hometown of Clyde, Texas, with a population of 3,000.

Windham's purpose in heralding small town life in the film is to reverse a popular perception that small towns are the backwash of American life and culture. After her first visit, she noted that all of the small towns chosen for this project have plans in place to guide future growth and have a strong incentive to protect their historic areas.
The one exception to the historic preservation focus is Greensburg, Kan., where the city has seized on their devastating loss as an opportunity to create a totally "green" community, in which environmentally sustainable redevelopment is a primary goal. She stated that all six cities are "moving forward," however, similar to Social Circle, they are also facing challenges with downtown redevelopment.

The current visit by Zumafilmz to Social Circle is the first in a second round of interviews planned for the other participating cities. Since Zumafilmz is an independent film company, its principals enjoy the liberty of setting their own pace in finalizing their documentary. After completing all scheduled visits this year, the following year will be devoted to final editing.

The finished product is scheduled for release in early 2014. The film will then be entered in a number of film festivals and, of course, we can look forward to a grand opening, planned in all six participating towns.

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