By Curt Yeomans
As Clayton County's sheriff, Kem Kimbrough plays a key role in public safety by overseeing one of the law enforcement arms of the county, and by running the county jail.
But in an effort to improve the quality of life in the county by being more than a law enforcement officer, he recently launched a nonprofit, charitable organization called the Kem Kimbrough Foundation.
He said the foundation is designed to be a "conduit" to help people in the community donate money that can, in turn, be given to community groups and individuals, including neighborhood organizations, youth mentoring programs, and needy public safety officers.
"I spent all of last year learning the ins and outs of this community, and learning their wants and needs, and I wanted to do something to help meet those needs," Kimbrough said. "What better a way than to create a community foundation."
Kimbrough, who was elected as Clayton County's sheriff in 2008, said he has set a goal for his new foundation to be able to distribute $50,000 in grants to community organizations in its first year. "Let's shoot for the moon," he said. "There is certainly enough need in this county that we can take those kinds of resources, and turn this place around."
The sheriff said that sometimes, community organizations need financial assistance to support beneficial programs. The grants dolled out by this foundation will help those organizations fund those programs, he said.
It will also help raise money, through fund-raising events such as a public safety ball, that can be given to fire fighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), police officers and sheriff's deputies who have medical expenses, either for themselves, their children or their spouses, which cannot be fully covered by their medical benefits.
Kimbrough said organizations that receive the grants will have to apply for them, and meet criteria that is still being determined by the foundation's board of directors.
There will be annual reports, detailing where money was distributed in the community, sent to people who give financial donations to the foundation, according to Kimbrough. "That way, they'll have something to point to and say, 'This is how I am helping improve my community,'" he said.
Right now, the foundation's staff members are all volunteers. Kimbrough said he hopes the organization will grow enough in terms of financial resources and scope, to have full-time staff to oversee its day-to-day operations.
"We are going to have to gain people's trust," Kimbrough said. "But I believe that as we prove to people this is for the benefit of the community, then we'll have more and more support. Then we'll have the resources to have full-time staff to run this organization."
Kimbrough said the foundation's board of directors includes himself; Joe Lee, a principal partner in the criminal justice construction firm of Carter Goble Lee; Bob Barnett, a manager at the Market Grocery at the Atlanta State Farmers Market; Teresa Musso, a member of the Arts Clayton board of directors; Janie Griffin, a past president of the Lake Spivey Civic Association; Robert Baird, a manager with the Atlanta office of Turner Construction, and Atlanta-based consultant, Tyrone Spears.
Teresa Musso and her husband, Carlo Musso, hosted a reception, that launched the foundation, at their Jonesboro home. Carlo Musso is the president of Stockbridge-based CorrectHealth, a company which provides medical services to area prisons, including the Clayton County Jail.
Teresa Musso said she and her husband are supporting Kimbrough's effort because of its focus on helping the community, primarily the children of Clayton County.
"We're community-oriented people, so it [their response] was, 'absolutely,' the minute he brought it to us," Teresa Musso said. "I think we need leadership for our children, we need mentors for our children, and we need programs to engage our children."