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Census event aims to raise awareness

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The Psi Alpha Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which has members in Henry and Clayton counties, will partner with Census officials to hold a Community Census Day program on Saturday.

Organizers of the event are hoping crowds will turn out in large numbers, said Dana Lemon, a sorority member.

The event will be held from 10 a.m., to 2 p.m., at Global Impact Christian Ministries, located at 125 Red Oak Road in Stockbridge.

Lemon said those attending Saturday's event will have an opportunity to collect mugs and T-shirts during promotional giveaways. There will also be free children's activities and games, she continued.

"It's really more like a family day focused on the 2010 census," Lemon added.

Census forms were mailed out on March 15, with a return date of April 15. Those who fail to return the form by April 15 can expect a visit by a census worker.

Government officials depend on the census figures to determine how to allocate billions of dollars in federal funds, said Susan Burnore, the manager supervising census activities in Henry, Clayton, Butts, Spalding, Newton and Rockdale counties.

"For every individual who does not get counted, that person's community and state lose $13,000 in federal funds over the next 10 years," said Burnore. "That's money not available for schools, services for the elderly, roads, hospitals and many more services important to our area."

Currently, Henry County is lagging behind the national participation rate, according to Henry County Communications Director Julie Hoover-Ernst, who is also the chairperson of the media subcommittee of the Henry County Complete Count Committee.

"As of March 23, the national participation rate is 16 percent, with Henry County showing a four percent census response rate," she said.

Census data, Hoover-Ernst also noted, is used by businesses when searching for a place to locate, and is used to determine legislative representation.

A response to the census is required by law, Hoover-Ernst added.

Shannon Daniels, an employee with the Stockbridge Census office, will be at Saturday's event to answer questions and provide information on the census, according to Burnore.

Community events such as the one planned at the church are important, Burnore added.

"Events like this are crucial to the success of the 2010 census," she said. "They raise the awareness of the community to the fact that the census is going on, and they help spread valuable information."

Burnore said that for every 1 percent increase in the participation rate -- measured by the number of households that return their census forms through the mail -- United States taxpayers save $80 million.

The savings is attributed to the 42-cent cost of mailing the form back, as opposed to sending a census worker to the door to conduct an interview, which costs approximately $57 per household, she said.