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Report ranks health of Polk Co.
The annual analysis looks at factors affecting length and quality of life.

Dr. Richard Besser

About one in six households in Polk and surrounding counties experience severe housing problems ranging from overcrowding, a lack of kitchen or plumbing facilities or the need to spend more than 50 percent of their income on shelter.

The issue has a ripple effect, according to the annual County Health Rankings released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

"High housing costs make it difficult for families to afford other essentials that contribute to good health, such as healthy food, medicine or transportation to work or school," the analysis states.

Forsyth County ranks healthiest in Georgia, followed by Oconee, Cherokee, Fayette and Gwinnett. The least healthy counties are generally in the southern part of the state: Warren, Twiggs, Quitman, Clay and Miller counties.

Polk County ranks 91 out of the 159 counties for overall health, which looks at both the length of life and quality of life in the population.

Bartow County is tops in the area at 33; Gordon County comes in at 61; Chattooga ranks 83 and Floyd came in at 54.

The percent of households classified with housing burdens ranges from 16 percent in Bartow and Gordon to 17 percent in Polk to 18 percent in Floyd and Chattooga. Georgia's average is 18 percent, but in the healthiest U.S. counties it's half that.

"Our homes are inextricably tied to our health," said Dr. Richard Besser, RWJF president and CEO. "It's unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing."

The rankings, online at County-HealthRankings.org, call attention to key drivers in health and the differences from place to place that affect how well and how long people live. The four main areas of investigation were health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment.

Higher-than-average rates of adult smoking, adult obesity and people without medical insurance are among the health factors of concern in the five-county area, but there are bright spots as well in the report.

For instance, in Polk County the access to exercise opportunities for children and adults alike sit at 81 percent, five percent greater than the statewide average.

Additional areas of concern where Polk does worse than the state average include the 44-percent of residents who have some college, a 5.3-percent unemployment rate and the 27 percent of local children who live in poverty.

Residents also recorded a higher rate of preventable hospital stays, equal to 5,585 per 100,000 in Polk. In Georgia, it averages 4,851 per 100,000 and the healthiest communities nationally average a rate of 2,765 per 100,000.

The other nearby counties also top the state average, with the rate at 5,201 per 100,000 in Gordon; 5,977 in Floyd ; 5,645 per 100,000 in Bartow; and 5,645 in Chattooga.

Polk County's bright spots also include a 10 percent rate of alcohol-impaired driving deaths and a lower-than-stateaverage rate of income inequality. That's the difference between the to 20 percent and bottom 20 percent of earners.

The county also nets a 7.9 on the food environment index, which calculates access to healthy food and the ability to afford it. Georgia's overall rating is 6, which is much lower than the 8.7 average for the top counties nationwide.

Areas of concern in Polk included the graduation rate, level of education overall, and high rates of violent crime and injury deaths. The number of reported violent crimes was equal to 569 per 100,000 people, compared to 388 per 100,000 for the state average and 63 per 100,000 in the safest U.S. counties.

Gordon County's high school graduation rate of 94 percent stood out as a high mark in the health factors, along with a relatively low rate of sexually transmitted diseases equal to 251 per 100,000 people. It's the lowest in the area and significantly lower than the statewide average of 614.6 per 100,000 people.

Income inequality is within healthy-community bounds in Gordon as well, with a ratio of 4.3 between the top and bottom percentiles, compared to 5.0 for the state and 3.7 in the top-performing counties.

The county's uninsured rate of 20 percent, however, is the highest in the area. Georgia's average is 15 percent and the healthiest U.S. communities average 6 percent. About 25 percent of Gordon's adults and 8 percent of its children are without medical insurance, according to the report.

Chattooga County's strongest points are its food environment index of 7.8 for access and affordability of healthy food, and its 4.7 percent unemployment rate equal to the state average.

The county's 86-percent high school graduation rate beats the state average but is flagged as a potential area of concern in the report. Just 36 percent of the adults have some college education.

Chattooga also nearly matched Polk in the rate of injury deaths: 94 per 100,000 people compared to 99 per 100,000. Statewide, the rate – using data from 2013 through 2017 – was 63 per 100,000.

Bartow County scored well on the income-inequality scale and 48 percent of the population got flu vaccinations, compared to 43 percent statewide and 52 percent in the top counties nationwide.

The county ranked lowest in the area in the premature death rate, which is the number of years of potential life lost before the age of 75 per 100,000 people. It's calculated giving heavier weight to the deaths of younger people.

Bartow came in at 8,200 per 100,000 compared to 8,800 for Floyd, 9,000 for Gordon, 10,600 for Polk, and 10,700 for Chattooga. The statewide average was 7,700 per 100,000 and the top-performing counties in the nation averaged 5,500 per 100,000.

A major area of concern was the violent crime rate equal to 468 reports per 100,000 people, using data for 2014 and 2016.


Variety show's 20th anniversary all about "Legacy"
Cedartown High's student-led show coming up this Friday and Saturday

When the Cedartown High School drama department began their annual variety show, Theater Director Chris Reaves thought it was only going to be a one-time thing way back in 1999. Just a fun show to put on for the community at the behest of his students.

"The title of the first variety show performance was the 'Was Variety Show',

because I never thought we were going to do it again," he said. "The next year the students came back and asked to do it again, so I said to myself 'I'll do one more.' and then one more turned into this."

Two decades later, the annual Variety Show coming up this weekend is a full-on program that students compete to take part in, as well as a family tradition for several in the community.

So this weekend's show titled "Legacy" looks to honor the long-running tradition of fun for all and bring back some alumni to take part as well.

"For me, this is one of those neat community events that started by accident, and now people know about it," Reaves said. "I know people who will come out of town to come see our show every year."

Showtimes are set for Friday night at 7 p.m., and again on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10 through Friday afternoon when Cedartown High closes and where tickets can be purchased ahead of time, or at the Cedartown Performing Arts Center box office for $12.

A reception by invite-only is planned for variety show producer alumni on Saturday, and those who have invitations will be provided with additional details about time and place.

Reaves said that this year's performances promise to be some of the best yet.

"We don't usually do skits or dances that I would consider above everyone's heads. It's for entertainment," Reaves said. "This is about the opportunity to produce a show and enjoy what we provide."

Cultural appropriation is part of the fun of the follies, and among the various ideas that students come up with for the show, Reaves said he must have seen hundreds of Saturday Night Live-themed skits with local twists over the years. One of his favorites over the years involved Matt Foster, who at the time he was a member of the producing cast played Sean Connery in a remake of the SNL "Jeopardy"-themed skit.

Alumni like Foster have gone on over the years to bigger things. He's now the Chair of the Cedartown City Commission for the year, and in his second term. Other Variety Show producers Reaves put forth as an example are Edward and Oscar Guzman, both who work for the City of Cedartown in administrative roles.

Their sister Brisa is among the group of students producers this year.

"There are a couple of families in town where I have their fourth child involved in the show," Reaves said. "They saw their big brother or big sister do it, and they decided that they wanted to follow in their footsteps too. So the name of this year's show is "Legacy." One reason is that we have these little groups of families involved throughout the years."

This year's producing team also includes Isaiah Beck, Karen Bermudez, Suzanne Ellis, Evie Drew Frasier, Caroline Gammage, Olivia Golden, Brady Guthrie, Curtis Lee, Kendall Lee, Molli Lemons, Cam Lorys, Emily McDonald, Joanna Newsome, Cole Parham, Omar Reyes, Alexsys South, Raegan Tanner, Asia Turner and Gabrielle Woodward.

The Variety Show will take on a whole new dimension in 2020, when students will be able to do more in their own space after construction work is completed on the high school's new fine arts addition, which will include a theater and a lot more room for set design and construction. He added that the already-competitive program will get even more packed with different aspects of theater production with the expanded space and opportunities available, like letting students design their own lighting schemes for scenes.

So as the Variety Show celebrates this year, they also mark it as the final year they'll perform within the Cedartown Performing Arts Center stage.

"With the coming of the theater next year, this show is really the perfect marriage for the program as a whole," Reaves said. "It's taken this many years to get set in motion, and now those kids will have their own space where I can really teach the technical side."


Aragon Clerk announces resignation at month's end

The City of Aragon is set to lose another employee this week in a high-level position after a resignation letter was turned in ahead of the City Council's latest session for March.

City Clerk Christie Langston provided her two-week notice to Mayor Garry Baldwin in a letter on March 19, and let the council know of her intentions to leave on March 28. Her letter did state March 29, but in follow-up conversations with Langston she corrected the date to March 28.

Langston, who was appointed to the job in 2017 after serving as municipal court clerk, said in her letter the job was too much on her physical well-being.

"I do appreciate (the) opportunity that has been given to me, but my health can't handle the stress this job demands of me," Langston's letter said.

In a follow-up statement, Langston added that "I would like to thank the citizens, Mayor and City Council for the opportunity to serve as the city's clerk. It has been an honor for me.... I will each and everyone of you from the bottom of my heart."

Langston's departure at month's end marks the second high-level employee to leave in 2019, and is among a long list of Aragon officials to leave under Baldwin's tenure.

That list includes former Finance Officer Hal Kuhn, former City Attorney Vickey Atkins, former City Clerk Sandy Norman — who was the only certified clerk in the city's history, and earned it after her departure.

Also among those who have left are Troy Smith who used to be the code enforcement and building inspector, Josh Ozment, who held the same position, last year's turmoil in the Police Department with four different chiefs hired, promoted or demoted, and in most recent weeks the departure of Public Works Superintendent Daniel Johnson.

Baldwin said in comments at the tail end of the Aragon City Council meeting on March 21 that Langston served faithfully as his "right hand."

He added her job was the most important of all in the city, and that he understood the stress of that work follows anyone who holds the position home with them.

A posting for the position will be forthcoming to fill the City Clerk's role, which has a variety of tasks including acting as the city's human resource officer, handling of accounts receivable and payable, payroll, government filings, keeping meeting minutes and much more.

Adrianna Barton will take on the duties in an interim role after Langston leaves her post on March 28. Any new hire to the role will have to be approved by the Aragon City Council before they can go to work, and are sworn into the job by Municipal Court Judge Terry Wheeler.

The position is doubly critical to fill in the near term as the city begins preparations for an upcoming municipal election for the Mayor's seat and two others on the council this coming November. The clerk also coordinates with the Polk County Board of Elections to ensure the election goes smoothly.


Improvements underway at Rockmart's Post Office

The Rockmart Post Office on Elm Street near the downtown intersection at Marble Street has stood through the tests of time. Rain, sleet, snow and sunshine have come and gone through the decades it has offered up mail services and much more to residents on the eastern side of Polk County, and generations of mail carriers and officials have come and gone through its doors.

Now those front doors and much more are getting some much needed improvements as a project got underway last week to complete some updates and repairs to the parts of the building most used by customers.

Rockmart Postmaster Jeremy Holland said in much the same way when he was stationed in Cedartown he sought to make improvements to the post office which were completed before his tenure was up, he seeks to ensure the same happens at his most recent posting.

"I'm trying to do some things to bring it back to life a little bit," Holland said. "It's been so neglected over the years, these repairs are really needed."

He said the main lobby is will be getting new coats of paint in the blue and gray color scheme used by the U.S. Postal Service, and that exterior work to rebuild windows inside and out, replace trim work around the front doors, and even redoing some of the plaster work in his office is all part of the project.

Holland additionally hopes to replace outside landscaping and make repairs to the flag pole in front of the building.

"There are just cracks everywhere, because it is an old building," he said.

One thing that won't be covered up with new coats of paint is the mural within the post office lobby. Additionally, other details and wood trim work that is original to the building is being left in place. Front doors were replaced in 2018, but not the trim at the time.

He said repair work was expected to be completed this week. Holland added his appreciation to the public for their understanding of workers being in the way at times.

Rockmart's Post Office building still in use today was completed and opened to the public in 1939. This is Holland's latest posting at the Rockmart Post Office.

"I've had a lot of older people here in town who have asked about getting repairs done," Holland said. "When I came back to Rockmart, I've been on the phone for two months just trying to get some of these repairs handled, but now I'm finally getting it completed."


AREA CALENDAR OF EVENTS

The Easter Bunny will be hopping into Cedartown ahead of the holiday on Saturday, April 6 in Rockmart for the annual Family Savings Credit Union egg hunt. The event starts at 10 a.m. with a decorating contest, followed by the bunny hop sack race and egg race, and the hunt at 11:30 a.m. Find Family Savings Credit Union on Felton Drive in Rockmart. For ages 12 and younger. Call 770-684-8601 to learn more.

Mark calendars now for fun during springtime in Cedartown. The Cedartown Junior Service league has their community Easter Egg hunt planned for Sunday, April 7, 2019 at 2 p.m. at Peek Park. Check back for more information about the event in the April 3 edition.

Join the Second Baptist Church in Cedartown for their annual Easter Egg Hunt on April 20th starting at 11:30 a.m. There will be free food, bounce houses, egg hunts, and prizes for all age groups of kids. Register online and find more information at www.sbcedartown.org.

Life Matters Outreach Pregnancy Resource Center will be hosting their first-ever fundraising golf tournament this Friday, March 29th at Cherokee Golf and Country Club. Registration is open to individual as well as 4-player teams. Early registration deadline is March 22 and the fee is $75 per player. After that the fee will be $100 per player. Proceeds go to fund the many free services they offer which include Pregnancy Testing, Pregnancy Options Counseling, and Support Programs for the community. To find out more information about LMO and to register for the golf tournament go to www.LifeMattersOutreach.net or call 770-749-8911.

Give a child a safe place to go after school and learn valuable lessons about community, life and academics by getting involved in the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Georgia in Cedartown. Visit their center at 321 E. Queen St., Cedartown from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and bring your children ages 5-18 for afternoon activities. For more information on how to participate or volunteer, call our office at 770-749-0869 or email asams@bgcnwga.org.

The annual Lost Cost Rabies Clinic sponsored by the Cedartown/Polk County Humane Society is coming up on Saturday, May 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cedartown Boys and Girls Club at 321 E. Queen St. Cats and Dogs are $10 and horses are $20. Pet owners can get their dogs and cats microchipped for an additional $10, or have Precious Paws provide nail trimming for $5. All proceeds go to the Humane Society.

Interested in becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent? Open your heart to a child in need and find out how you can help. Join others who seek the love of a child every second Tuesday night of each month at 6 p.m. at Polk County Division of Family and Children Services office, 100 County Loop Road in Cedartown. Information sessions explain what is required to become a foster or adoptive parent in Georgia. For more information please call Robin Forston at 404-895-6517 or email robin.forston@dhs.ga.gov or call 1-877-210-KIDS. Visit www.fostergeorgia.com for more information.

The Polk County Democratic Committee Meets on the second Saturday of every month at 9:30 a.m. In the "even" months (February, April, June, August, etc.) the organization meets at The Rockmart Library at 316 N. Piedmont Ave., Rockmart and during the "odd" months (January, March, etc.) they meet at the Cedartown Welcome Center, 609 Main St., Cedartown, GA 30125.

The American Legion in Rockmart is hosting their monthly all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner coming upon Wednesday, April 17. Meal of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic toast and salad, $5. They hold dinners on the third Wednesday of every month. Join the group for a good meal and to support veteran and children's programs. The Legion is located at 1 Veterans Circle, Rockmart. Check back for an updated date in the coming edition of the Standard Journal's Calendar of Events.

USAPA Pickelball Ambassador Daneen England is holding a free pickleball clinic every Monday (weather permitting) from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rockmart Tennis courts, located at 436 Hogue Avenue, Rockmart. Loaner paddles and all necessary equipment will be on hand to learn t he sport. This is a free event for anyone and they just need to wear comfortable gym clothes and tennis shoes. Contact England at 770-356-1282, or by e-mail at howardd999@yahoo.com for more information.

The office of Exceptional Students of Polk School District is available to assist with the identification of children with disabilities and provision a free appropriate public education beginning at the age of three through the age of 21. If you suspect your child is experiencing any developmental delay or you suspect your child might have a disability and would like assistance or for more information about services available through Polk School District, contact the PSD Exceptional Student Services office at 770-684-8718.

Lutheran Services of Georgia's Heritage Adoption Program partners with DFCS to find Forever Families for children waiting in Georgia's foster care system. Information Sessions are held on the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Rome Office, located at 336 Broad St., Suite 200. Individual sessions may be scheduled to accommodate families as needed. For more email aweaver@lsga.org or call 706-506-0649.

Get assistance

Need help with the bills during the winter, and are a senior? Tallatoona CAP will begin accepting appointments for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for Senior Households 65 & older and Homebound Households. Appointments for the General Public will be accepted beginning in December. Appointments are provided on a first come first served basis until funds are exhausted. Polk County residents who qualify will receive either $310.00 or $350.00 toward their heating bill (heating source). To schedule an appointment or to request a homebound appointment, visit our website at www.tallatoonacap.org and click BookNow, or call 770-817-4666.

Do you think you might be pregnant? You can know for sure. Contact Life Matters Outreach today to schedule a free pregnancy test. You have a right to know all the options available to you. We offer free evidence-based education and resources so that you can make a well-informed decision. The services provided at LMO Pregnancy Care Center are free of charge. Clients are treated with respect and unconditional acceptance. We are here to help YOU. Call 770-748-8911 for more information.

Victory Baptist Church's Bread of Life Food Pantry is now open. One bag of nonperishable food, five items to pick from produce, eggs and milk and two items from frozen meats, breads and others will be available. ID is required. Limit of two IDs per address. Regular hours are Mondays, 1 to 3 p.m.; Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m.; and Thursdays, 8 to 10 a.m.

The Georgia Legal Services Program's Claire Sherburne will be on hand at One Door Polk in Cedartown every fourth Monday to help those in need with free civil legal services to low-income persons. This will include all cases related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, consumer fraud, wills, healthcare and other issues involved in the legal complications of everyday life. Call 404-206-5175 for more information.

The Polk County Alzheimer's Caregiver Support group will meet monthly on the first Monday at 11 a.m. at Polk Medical Center. Those interested can join for fellowship and lunch in the cafeteria. For more information call John Giglio at 678-246-8188.

Aragon First United Methodist Church offers a food pantry for the community to use if they need assistance. They are open Mondays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A picture ID is required to participate. Call 770-684-4855 for more information.

Celebrate Recovery meets every Monday night at the First Baptist Church of Rockmart starting with dinner at 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Large Group at 7 p.m. and Small Share Group at 8 p.m.

Soup and Savior, a local nonprofit organization, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to provide needed items to deserving people. This includes a free meal (soup), clothing and gives other assistance. Meetings are held at Glad Tidings, located at 703 Robert L Parks Blvd. in Cedartown. Donations are accepted.

Just Us Ministries Inc. Food Bank has distribution every Tuesday and Thursday at 904 Young Farms Road in Cedartown. On Tuesday the distribution is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. A picture ID is required. For more information call 770-687-1009 or 678-901-3354, e-mail justusmin.org@gmail.com, or visit Justusministries.com.

A caregivers support group meets on the second Monday of each month at 11 a.m. at Rockmart Presbyterian Church. Call 770-684-6289 for more information.

Take back your life and get help. Narconon can help you take steps to overcome addiction in your family. Call today for free for screenings or referrals at 1-800-431-1754.

Churches

The Marietta Street United Methodist Church, 401 Robert L. Parks Blvd., Cedartown, will have it's Spring Revival starting on March 26 and continuing through March 28, 2019 at 7 p.m. each night. The Rev. Bobby Church, Pastor, will provide the message. Call the church office for more information at 770-748-7862. All are welcome to join in worship.

Polk County is invited to take part in Holy Week events at several churches around Rockmart and Aragon coming up ahead of the Easter holiday, starting on Monday, April 15 and continuing through Easter Sunday on April 21. That includes a Monday worship service at Rockmart First Methodist on April 15 with First Baptist Pastor Jason Odom leading the service, on Tuesday, April 16 at Rockmart Presbyterian Church with Rockmart First Methodist's Rev. Martha Dye leading the service, on Wednesday, April 17 at Aragon First United Methodist Church featuring Earl Johnson, and Thursday, April 18 at Rockmart First Baptist with Jaye Sawyer leading worship. On Friday, April 19, Rockmart First Baptist is hosting services with James Hannah, and then a sunrise Easter Service on April 21 will be led by Maryellen Hittel at Rockmart Presbyterian Church.

Anna Kresge Memorial United Methodist Church's Men's Club is holding a Fish Fry fundraiser coming up on Saturday, April 6 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., or until the food is all sold out. The menu includes catfish, slaw, hushpuppies, fries and a drink. Eat in or carry out is $9 a plate. Call 770-748-4308 to learn more.

A day of gospel and praise is planned with the Hess Family Band at the Cedartown Flea Market coming up on Sunday, April 7, starting at 11 a.m. The event is free to the public, but a love offering will be collected during the event. Everyone is welcome to attend at 591 West Ave., Cedartown.

The Rev. Gilbert Richardson and the Ware's Grove Church family of 200 Potash Road, invite everyone to join the Impact Service held each Sunday at 9:45 a.m., followed by regular worship services at 11:15 a.m. Bible class is held Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. The community is also invited to join the congregation for a special Men and Women service to be held on Sunday, March 17, at 3 p.m.

Come join in welcoming new pastor Jimmy Douglas Bryant on Sunday, March 10 to Oak Grove Baptist Church on Highway 27 North in Cedartown with worship services starting at 11 a.m. Members, former members and pastors are also encouraged and welcome to come and worship as well on Sunday, March 17 as the church celebrates their 121st anniversary service at 11 a.m. Lunch will follow the anniversary service.

The Gospel Talent Share-a-Thon is coming soon to the Outreach Tabernacle and Gospel Music Park at 1351 County Road 31 in Muscadine, Ala. The March 30 event starts at 5:30 p.m. central and will feature soloists, duets, trios, quartets and musicians. Join and share love of the community. For more information call 770-712-1032 or 678-925-0903.