North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network continues to provide much needed services in our area

Community, News, Non Profit

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network (NGMCN) is not often highlighted among the nonprofit charities in our community. With the sensitive nature of the services they provide, it is a fine line that the charity must walk in order to financially continue operations and still protect the anonymity of the victims who seek their help.

Fannin County, North Georgia, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Victims, Advocacy, Services, Awareness, Shelter, Board Member, Steven Miracle, Executive Director, Julie Welch, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson

NGMCN has two thrift stores, one located in Blue Ridge and one in McCaysville. Both stores help to provide financial assistance to the charity organization.

Started in 1986, the NGMCN is entering its 33 year of service.

“There are a lot of non profit organizations in our community providing care and support to residents of Fannin County,” NGMCN Board Member Steven Miracle said explaining where the charity’s services fall, “Our mission is to provide safety and support to survivors and their children of sexual abuse and domestic violence.”

Miracle went on to explain that there are four major areas in which the organization focuses:

  • Sexual Assault. Through NGMCN victims of sexual assault are provided counseling and support services to help navigate them through a very difficult time.
  • Domestic Violence. While NGMCN offers the counseling and services to victims of domestic violence as it does to victims of sexual assault, it also offers shelter to house these victims and their children.
  • Legal Advocacy. NGMCN has a trained staff that will help victims navigate the sometimes daunting legal system.
  • Education Awareness. NGMCN helps to spread the word of domestic and sexual violence through community outreach. This includes working hand in hand with law enforcement, hospitals, and different organizations that provide services to these victims.

In 2018, NGMCN housed 129 residents at their shelter. This accounted for 3,173 bed/nights (a measure of occupancy for one person assigned to one bed for one night). Residents of the shelter were also provided with well over 10,000 units of service.

“That’s actually sitting across from a survivor and their children within the shelter to be able to make phone calls, to be able to help them with any type of individual support,” NGMCN Executive Director Julie Welch explained the term “units of service”.

Outreach clients or those who did not require a shelter stay for last year totaled 158 clients and 8,700 units of service.

So far in 2019 the charity has already provided 380 bed/nights, 87 hotline calls, and 600 units of service.

Once a victim has stayed at the NGMCN shelter, the services continue even after that person has checked out. The charity works with community services in the area that the victim chooses to move to and helps provide a network of resources.

Welch said of this work, “That way we can provide a net of services so they don’t fall through the cracks.”

Over $60,000 were provided to those who reached out to NGMCN in 2018. This financial assistance is used when a client leaving a threatening situation has no source of income initially or is needed as short-term emergency funds.

Fannin County, North Georgia, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Victims, Advocacy, Services, Awareness, Shelter, Board Member, Steven Miracle, Executive Director, Julie Welch, Fannin County Board of Commissioners, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Chairman, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Glenn Patterson

NGMCN will host a 5k run or 1 mile walk on April 13, 2019 in downtown Blue Ridge.

“The fact that we are part of the budget is very much appreciated,” Miracle spoke to the Fannin County Board of Commissioners about the role the county plays, “and the support that you provide in helping us provide services to survivors and victims of our community is very, very much appreciated.”

Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson shared his thoughts, “I admire what you do because quite simply, every situation you deal with is not a good situation, and you continually do it and your passion about what you do and everything that your organization does do, no one knows. I admire people who work behind the scenes. They do the things that they do. They don’t do it for any glamour or glory, they do it just for the reason you all do it because that’s what you feel like you should do.”

Welch acknowledged that it takes many volunteers, staff, and the community as a whole to provide these services: “It’s not just us. There’s a whole host of other people. It’s a team and working with law enforcement, the judicial system, hospitals…it’s completely a team and community effort.”

“I know some people that you literally saved their lives,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton thanked Miracle and Welch for the work they do. “Getting them out of situations that are horrendous. I’m not sure how many people in the county are aware of what a great thing you do. You do such a great thing for the community.”

There are currently 49 clients in their legal advocacy program and NGMCN is housing 14 people in their 12 bed shelter.

“Often times we will have moms that come in that will have small children,” Welch explained the high occupancy.

NGMCN serves both men and women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. They hope by promoting education and awareness in these areas that eventually the cycle of abuse will come to an end.


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Natalie Kissel

Technology upgrades headline Mountain Regional Library System meeting


BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Several technology upgrades throughout all four Mountain Regional Library System (MRLS) locations were discussed during the quarterly regional board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 7, in Blue Ridge.

All four locations – Towns County Public Library in Hiawassee, Mountain Regional Library in Young Harris, Union County Public Library in Blairsville and Fannin County Public Library in Blue Ridge – now have mobile WiFi hotspots available for checkout to patrons, according to MRLS Director Vince Stone. These units allow anyone to establish a portable Internet WiFi zone using a cellular connection. All units, however, carry a replacement fee of $150 should they become lost or broken while checked out. All of the branch librarians reported the overwhelming popularity of these devices at their locations.

The regional board also discussed and watched a tutorial detailing the recent addition of the RB Digital mobile app to the library system. Patrons using a mobile device can download the RB Digital app and register using their library card number to receive eBooks, audiobooks, and digital magazines. According to FCPL Branch Librarian Andrew Vickers, the app is compatible with most cell phones and mobile tablets. “And the apps are very easy to use,” Vickers added.

Other upgrades within the library system have included, or will soon include, 3D printers, digital scanners, and mobile device charging stations, all available for patrons to use.

Referring to all of the upgrades throughout library system, John Turner, regional board member, stated he was encouraged to see the improvements being utilized by patrons at the locations. “This stuff is really, really neat,” Turner said.

Stone also reported that he had completed all evaluations for the branch librarians in the system. He explained the evaluations were completed by inspecting each facility, performing an audit of the branch’s financial information and conducting a question and answer session with the librarians. Of the evaluations, Stone said, “They were all outstanding.”

The board accepted and approved the second quarter of fiscal year 2017-18 (October through December) financial statement and balance sheet for MRLS. Currently, the library system’s expenses as of Dec. 31 stood at $563,231.78 of the projected $1,033,205.92 for the fiscal year. Reported total revenues stood at $433,289.82 of the projected $1,048,507.03 for the fiscal year. Of this revenue amount, $172,074.03 has come from the state and $218,382.59 has come from local taxing agencies, such as counties and municipalities. Other forms of revenue, Stone explained, come from donations, local Friends of the Library groups, and branch-generated revenue, such as fines, fees and vending.

Stone clarified that although there appears to be a large over-budget amount seen in the year-to-date expenses versus revenue category, state and local revenues tend to increase greatly during the last two quarters, which inevitably balances the finances before the end of the fiscal year.

In other business, Casey Hunley, MRLS interlibrary loan coordinator, will replace Lynn Bartlett as MRLS business manager during the upcoming quarter. Bartlett will be retiring at the end of March, according to Stone.

The regional board also unanimously approved and ratified the hiring of two new employees: Michael Lavery at FCPL and Wendy Erneston at Mountain Regional.

The Food for Fines program is continuing again at MRLS locations throughout the month of February. For each can of food or non-perishable food item with an unexpired date that is received by the library, the patron will receive a one-dollar credit toward any outstanding fines. At the end of the month, all food received will be donated to local area food banks within that library’s county.

The board also heard reports from the branch librarians of the four MRLS locations:

Towns County Public Library (Hiawassee)

TCPL Branch Librarian Debbie Phillips reported the total attendance for the library during the second quarter of fiscal year 2017-18 was 7,887 with a total circulation of 7,808. Phillips stated 39 new library cards were issued during the quarter and the library received 176 new items. As of December 31, the account balance of the library stood at $2,473.78, according to Phillips.

As for events during the quarter, Phillips stated the holiday season, and especially December, was a busy time for the library. Phillips stated the library hosted a Twelve Days Before Christmas series of events, which included a Polar Express-themed event and performances from the Mountain Regional Puppet Company. “Most of the whole month (of December), we had something going on every day,” Phillips explained.

Phillips stated the library is beginning to prepare for its summer reading program and the weekly Storytime is continuing every Thursday at 11 a.m. An Essential Oils for Wellness program will be offered for adults Thursday, March 1, at 1 p.m. Phillips also said plans are in the works for offering an adult class for cooking with an Instant Pot. On Saturday, March 10, at 11 a.m. the library will also host an American Girl party, featuring a hair salon and nail station for girls and their dolls.

The TCPL branch librarian also reported the library is still waiting to receive a 3D printer, which was made available through a technology grant from the Georgia Public Library Service. The Dremel Digilab 3D20 printer, Phillips said, was expected to arrive sometime in January. Once it arrives, the printer will allow patrons to build 3D models by controlling and viewing the building process. Other library upgrades included installation of a computer, which is available for legal professionals to use at TCPL, designed to access the law library of the Towns County Courthouse.

Union County Public Library (Blairsville)

Susie Brendle, UCPL branch librarian, reported second quarter circulation for the library was 39,216 with a total attendance of 28,647. During the quarter, 111 new library cards were issued and 603 new items were received, Brendle said. As of December 31, the account balance for UCPL was $15,090. The library also received a $500 check from Friends of the Union County Public Library in January for the quarter, according to Brendle. “And that brought our 2017 total of Friends money to $3,000,” Brendle explained.

Brendle announced the Friends bake sale held Nov. 22 was a success, bringing in close to $1,000. She said Friends will begin collecting newer books from 2013 forward on Tuesday, Feb. 13, for the May bake sale.

Other upcoming library events will include the continuation of Lego Club the last Wednesday of the month at 3:45 p.m. through April and a Friends-hosted book signing Thursday, Feb. 8, at 3:30 p.m. featuring local author Sylvia Dyer Turnage and promoting her book Flying Off Rattlesnake Mountain. The Feb. 26 Storytime at the library at 11 a.m. will include a Dr. Seuss birthday celebration party with refreshments. On Friday, March 2, which is Theodor “Ted” Seuss Geisel’s 114th birthday, the library will host a Dr. Seuss movie marathon. On Monday, March 5, The Cat in the Hat will visit the library. “Our Friends of the Library have purchased The Cat in the Hat book that they will be handing out to the children,” Brendle explained. “So, we’ll be busy for the next month or so.”

Fannin County Public Library (Blue Ridge)

FCPL Branch Librarian Andrew Vickers reported a total second quarter circulation of 15,723 – a 6 percent increase over last year’s second quarter – with an attendance of 10,458. During the quarter, 95 new library cards were issued and 842 new items were received. The FCPL account balance as of December 31 stood at just over $9,600, according to Vickers. For donations, the library received a $200 donation from the Fannin’s Women Democratic Society, a $500 donation from local resident Linda McDonough and a $2,018 donation from Friends of the Fannin County Public Library.

Vickers said two new county board members, Kathy Tickner and Steven Miracle, were recently appointed to the local library board and two other seat positions from the city of Morganton remain vacant. Vickers reported that he, along with library staff member Darcy Arnell, recently met with Sarah Welch, the literacy coach for Fannin County Schools, in an effort to collaborate with the school system on ideas to help promote early childhood literacy throughout the county. Vickers added Arnell has also worked with seven Head-Start classrooms by doing a Storytime session with each class. In response to popularity of the Tuesday 11 a.m. Storytime session at the library, Vickers stated FCPL is considering adding an afternoon session at 4 p.m.

Upcoming events for FCPL will include the return of Reuben Haller, who will perform as The Cat in the Hat Tuesday, March 13, at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Blue Ridge in celebration Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Mountain Regional Library (Young Harris)

Vince Stone, director at Mountain Regional Library, said the Young Harris location will also host a Cat in the Hat party Saturday, March 3, and the library will be giving hardcover Dr. Seuss books to all families attending the event. “Last year, we had about 50 kids,” Stone explained. “This year, we’re hoping for 75 to 80.”

Stone also stated MRL will host a subcommittee meeting of the the Georgia Public Library Service Tuesday, Feb. 13. The director said the meeting will allow him a chance to meet and discuss library-related issues with other directors and GPLS representatives from similar-sized libraries and library systems across north Georgia.





Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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