Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough with this year’s recipients of grants from his foundation.
JONESBORO — Marion Hutchinson could not hold back his emotions Thursday morning as he accepted a $750 grant to help fund a newly-formed Neighborhood Watch program in his subdivision.
Hutchinson was one of 11 recipients of a grant from the Kem Kimbrough Foundation, awarded during a ceremony at Arts Clayton. Hutchinson got choked up and had trouble finishing his acceptance speech.
"We live in one of the oldest subdivisions in the county," said Hutchinson. "We just got tired of the crime so we just took some action."
Before the ceremony began, Hutchinson and his wife, Nancy, talked about forming Neighborhood Watch in August.
"We had 21 burglaries last year but only five during the same time period this year," said Nancy Hutchinson. "I do think it's a result of the joint effort of the neighbors. Sometimes you gotta wake 'em up and tell them what to do. It can be as simple as calling 911."
With the help of Jonesboro police Chief Franklin Allen, the Hutchinsons formed the Oak Forest Neighborhood Watch to help reduce crime in the subdivision off Battle Creek Road. Since then, the residents have partnered with Harvest International Church to use one of its meeting rooms.
Hutchinson said the grant will be used to order supplies and fund gatherings.
Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough handed out the grants. Last year, he awarded five agencies $1,000. This year, he gave $750 to 11 organizations.
"We had 11 outstanding applications and there was no way to get them down to five," he said. "They all spoke straight to the heart. We wanted to bring positive attention to Clayton County. I've had blessings on upon me that I want passed on to the rest of the county."
Veda Brown, founder and CEO of Sisters Empowerment Network, said her grant will be used to boost the self-esteem of young girls.
"We are trying to teach them to stay away from destructive behavior," said Brown, in accepting the grant. "We need to let them know they are beautiful and they don't have to settle for anything."
After the ceremony, Brown said the money will be used for a retreat for girls 10-15 to improve self-esteem and deal with peer pressure and bullying. She said she was thrilled to get the money.
"It is a wonderful opportunity," she said. "We really wanted to implement this program and this gives us a good start. This grant is very vital and we are very grateful."
Other recipients included Cory's Foundation Inc., Stockbridge/Jonesboro Alumni Chapter of Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Good Shepard Clinic Inc., We Can Do All Things Inc., Reaching for HEAVIN, LIFE, Prevention Plus Inc., Hearts to Nourish Hope Inc. and Ladies of Favor Inc.
Kimbrough also made a surprise donation to Arts Clayton. Executive Director Linda Summerlin said the money will be used to pay for two middle school students to attend the center's summer camp.
Kimbrough said his goal is to help make Clayton County a better place to live.
"I look at Clayton County for its future and what it can become," he said. "This is where my roots are, I'm raising my children here and I want to stand up and do what I can do make Clayton County a better place."
The foundation was formed in 2010 and is funded through donations and fundraisers.