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What do Elvis Presley, the 2020 Census, low income home loans, community and economic development, and business growth all have in common? They were all topics on the agenda for the Jan. 16 meeting of the Carter County Community Partners. Representatives from FIVCO, SOAR, and Frontier Housing were at the meeting to discuss ways they can help Carter County grow.

Carly Carver, Community Planner with FIVCO, presented the group with information about grant opportunities that might be available for different projects in the county, including Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative grants for communities impacted by loss of coal jobs.

Carver also provided information about the 2020 Census, noting how important those numbers are to “Kentucky's representation in Congress, as well as how certain funds are spent for schools, hospitals, roads, and more.”

Sabrina McWhorter, Business and Innovation Champion with SOAR Innovation for the region, was also at the meeting to let Carter County know they are included in the region she serves. SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) is a non-proft, non-partisan organization with a mission of expanding job creation, enhancing regional opportunity, innovation, and identity, improving quality of life, and to provide support to others seeking those achieve these goals in Appalachian Kentucky. SOAR Innovation helps businesses and entrepreneurs with services to help create or scale up business opportunities that benefit the region. You can find more information on the services offered at www.soarinnovation.tech.

In new business, Kiara Gabbard, Communications Specialist with Frontier Housing, was on the agenda to discuss their mission of providing “affordable housing solutions to build better communities.”

While low-income home loans form a significant portion of the services they offer, Gabbard said they also offer other types of loans and financial planning advice.

“Home ownership is our primary service line,” she said. But they also offer budget planning, credit coaching, and financial literacy as free services. They can provide help one-on-one, via telephone, or online, she said. They also offer services where they guarantee a home loan if you work with the group to improve your credit score by 50 points over a set period of time.

They are also offering a new “mutual self help” program, where they purchase lots in subdivisions and then families who will live in those homes work with each other to build the homes together, somewhat in the style of an old-fashioned barn raising. They try to plan it so that the families all move into their new homes around the same time, after they are all completed. It not only gives them ownership in their home, and the neighborhood, it helps them get to know the people who are going to be their neighbors and “creates a sense of community... through the process,” Gabbard said.

Another recent focus has been on “roofs, ramps and HVAC,” she said. They can provide low-interest loans or find grants to help with those sorts of immediate needs, she said, depending on the circumstance.

During the Arts, Beautification and Cultural Committee report, Dan Click noted that the Grayson Gallery & Art Center will be hosting their F!nal Fr!day event on Friday, Jan. 31, from 6 – 9 p.m. The show will feature Elvis themed art from Gregory Damron.

This is the gallery's second show to feature the work of a single artist, rather than an exhibit from various artists on a theme, a feature that gallery director Click has said he was interested in doing more of. He said the works span a broad period of time, and that it was interesting to watch Damron's growth as an artist within the bounds of a single subject like Elvis. The show will also feature live musical performance of Elvis songs and Elvis themed refreshments.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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