In a county deeply divided along high school boundaries, a small group of residents have been quietly working and meeting with different groups in hopes of bringing people together to make Carter County a better place to live, work and raise families.

During a lunch meeting Thursday, members of the 11-person group Carter County Community Partners outlined their progress as well as plans for an Aug. 9 summit in Grayson.

Organizers of the meeting are hoping to involve people from throughout the county, as well as Olive Hill and Grayson, to formulate strategies for immediate action.

“We hope to see people who want to make Carter County a better place to live. Baby steps, you know?” said group member Mark Strother.

“Youth, too,” added member Lori Garkovich. “We need to listen to what they have to say.”

Through surveys within the community, the organization has a list of identified “needs/priorities/values” to address, with issues including youth support with after-school and summer activities as well as leadership development; drug-free community and rehabilitation services; emergency services, including food and shelter; positive business climate including diverse job opportunities and small business development support; safe and affordable housing; quality of life for senior citizens; continuing education, self improvement, varied library programs and cultural activities such as music, dance and theater; health and wellness; the area’s potential for tourism; rejuvenation of historical places; education to meet community needs; and additional places for shopping, dining and entertainment. The group also cites a need for “cooperative attitude with all leaders.”

During the upcoming summit meeting, participants will be asked for their input to identify in-common dreams, identify the county’s assets and strengths and to identify “gaps” within the community. Group member Pat Collier said ideas contributed during the summit will be put to use immediately as part of a comprehensive plan for action.

“That day. Not next week or next year,” Collier said.

During Thursday’s meeting, group members said they have already gained valuable insight about the concerns of Carter County residents, including local drug-abuse problems as well as often-inaccurate perceptions of the community. Strother observed that people who found themselves on different sides of local issues, such as the recent vote approving the sale of alcohol in Grayson have been “energized” by those efforts.

“Even the jail thing got people wanting to do something,” he said.

Collier said the group has already met with practically every organization in Carter County, although they strategically saved local elected officials for last. Collier noted that Grayson Mayor George Steele was the first to suggest the summit, and others in the community organization said elected officials including state Sen. Robin Webb and state Rep. Jill York have already been involved with the effort.

The Carter County Community Partner’s Summit will feature Rockcastle County banker Corey Craig as the opening speaker, with Vaughn L. Grisham as the keynote speaker. Grisham serves as director emeritus of the McLean Institute for Community Development and professor emeritus of Sociology at the University of Mississippi, where he has been an instructor for more than 40 years. The summit will begin with registration from 8:30 to 9 a.m. at the Grayson Conference Center, 501 C.W. Stevens Blvd.

Sponsored by the Grayson Area Chamber of Commerce, admission is free and refreshments and lunch will be provided. For more information, call (606) 474-4401.

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