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LEADING THE WAY: Community activist hosts event at Tall Pines to discuss community resources

When 20-year-old community activist Mikquez Berry saw residents of Tall Pines Apartments looking for ways to excel in life, he immediately got to work. 

Berry said he grew up on Turner Street and faced years of adversity in poverty. 

“I am very passionate about fighting poverty violence because I grew up around it here,” Berry said. “I was able to overcome that, and I want to give that same hope to the community here so they can be great as well.” 

Berry and LaGrange local Teara Harris got together with dozens of organizations that aim to pull people out of poverty and give proper recourses for jobs, free education, childcare and more.

West Georgia Technical College, the LaGrange Police Department, Safe Families for Children, Get Troup Reading, Stellar Staffing, Allegiance Staffing, Three Rivers Regional Commission and more were all in attendance at an event Wednesday at the Tall Pines Apartments. 

“A lot of people just don’t know where to go,” Berry said. “I brought what they needed to them. Why not wake up and come outside and their dreams are right in front of them. We have to put feet on the ground and boots in the community to walk with these people.” 

Harris said that she hopes to see good come out of the event and residents apply themselves. 

“I know it’s scary because you don’t know how you are going to do it,” Harris said. “It can be a big obstacle, but you have support teams here to help you. I know it’s going to be hard because I know a lot of you don’t have jobs. We brought all these vendors and organizations to help you when it gets hard.” 

Additionally, LaGrange Police Department Chief Lou Dekmar spoke Wednesday on the record restriction program they are currently offering. Record restriction is intended to help people clean up their criminal history, which can have an adverse when seeking jobs and other opportunities. All records associated with a given arrest will be sealed, if the restriction is approved.

Restriction, which is available year-round and typically costs $10 for retrieving the criminal history and $25 per restriction packet, is free during this period. In-person record restriction events have taken place in the past, but the pandemic forced this year’s event to take place virtually.

Dekmar said this year alone they have done more than 1,000 background checks for employers. 

He added that having a restricted record could potentially be the reason why someone is able to progress in employment. 

Those who wish to have a record restricted can download and fill out the paperwork online at http://lagrangepd.org/ or visit the lobby of the police department to complete it. 

“I think that what matters to me, and what matters to the members of your city council is that everybody in LaGrange has an opportunity to thrive,” said LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton. “Everybody in our community has an opportunity to succeed. We know, because we’re not blind, that there are barriers to inclusion. Like any worthwhile goal, it’s going to take time, it’s going to take effort but what I think is most important is it’s going to take community engagement and partnership.” 

Thornton said that it is up to leaders and volunteers in the community to help break down those barriers.

“We know that those barriers are housing and quality housing and affordable housing,” Thornton said. “We know that they are healthcare and access to both physical, mental health and wellness.  We have a vision of a more inclusive and equitable community here in LaGrange. Our responsibility is to tend to the ground that we live on.”  

Motivational speaker Quay Boddie told the crowd of residents to follow their dreams and not to let anybody try and take it away from them. 

“Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it,” Boddie said. 

“Bounce back to caring about your dream. Stop letting people dictate what you can and can’t do. It’s your dream.” 

Boddie said that he knows they are facing hardships, but said there is always a way to bounce back from a hardship. 

“We have this thing, where when we get in a hole we want to stay there,” Boddie said. “We tend to just lay down and give up and quit when hard things start to happen. Don’t quit.

It’s as simple as that. Let’s bounce back to caring about each other, let’s bounce back to getting where our dreams and our goals are and let’s bounce back from our hardships because we’re strong enough.”