A GCDD Real Communities Initiative Blog by a community volunteer in Milton, GA

Kat Walker, a community volunteer, reports on last week's launch of the Milton Real Communities Initiative's mini-grant program, Better Together.

Better Together Kickoff

We had a great time at the kick-off for Better Together, which was held in Crabapple, the historic district of Milton, GA. Better Together is such an exciting and inspired concept, so having the kick-off party at a fun place like Scoops, an ice cream and candy store with a nostalgic atmosphere, was a brilliant idea. And since I'm a huge fan of ice cream, I think making the Better Together launch into an ice cream social was sheer GENIUS!!

The goal of Better Together, the Milton Real Communities Initiative mini-grant program, is to involve people of all abilities in enhancing and strengthening local communities by fostering genuine relationships. This purposeful gathering of people of all abilities was evident the moment I stepped foot in the door.

Right inside, I was met by Zack, a 17-year-old who faithfully serves on the Better Together Grant Committee, and was sitting by the door handing out tickets for the ice cream. Zack happened to be on crutches on Sunday, due to an injury which reminded me that all people in our community will be affected by a disability at some point during their lives ... even if it's only for a very short time. I'm certain he didn't plan it in order to be thought-provoking, but if he did- go Zack!

I decided to get a scoop of Madagascar Vanilla ice cream, and then my ice cream and I did a lap around the room to say hello to familiar faces and meet new people. I met up with Maddy, a 14-year-old member of the committee. Being a teenager with cerebral palsy, she provides a unique perspective on the committee and is known as quite the problem-solver of the group.

I sat down in one of the booths with Tass, who has chronic pain, and Sharon, who uses a wheelchair, and together we smiled as Quincie, an energetic 6-year-old who happens to have Asperger’s syndrome, ran around snapping pictures of everything from babies being rocked to sleep to senior citizens lapping up ice cream from the sides of their cones.

As people began to mingle, they discussed their thoughts on projects and activities that could be supported by the $500 mini-grants being awarded by the Better Together Grant Committee. The creative juices started flowing! Artists met with environmentalists. Business owners met with high school students. Gardeners met with sports enthusiasts.

Everyone shared their passions and ideas, giving feedback and encouragement to one another. The mission of Real Communities and Better Together was already being realized. Here was a room full of people representing a variety of abilities, age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, etc., but they all were fired-up about THE SAME THING - wanting to strengthen and improve our community. I can't wait to see what will happen during the next year, but I'm hear to tell you, Better Together is off to a terrific start! Kat Walker