LAWRENCEVILLE, GA, June 29, 2022 – The Gwinnett Coalition hosted the Gwinnett Cares Celebration, on June 17, honoring community partners who served residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees, representing more than 50 organizations, gathered to reflect on successes achieved through the Gwinnett Cares program and to reinforce the value of cross-sector collaboration.
Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman, Nicole Love Hendrickson highlighted the impact of the community’s collective efforts noting that since the onset of the pandemic, Gwinnett County has administered more than 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to residents; distributed nearly 1.1 million pounds of food in 153 markets; donated more than 6,400 pounds of locally grown produce; transported 3.9 million pounds of food and other essential items; and distributed $63 million to residents in need of housing assistance.
Matt Elder, director of HomeFirst Gwinnett, recognized partners who supported eviction prevention and housing solution programs, which enabled the opening of two shelters; more than 10,000 individuals being served; $75 million being expended, aiding more than 21,000 individuals who were facing eviction or utility disconnection; and the completion of 117 new affordable housing units. Jace Brooks discussed the rise of unemployment—the unemployment rate spiked to ~15% during the pandemic—and how community efforts, through Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Better Work Gwinnett program, removed barriers and executed solutions, decreasing the unemployment rate to 2.1% and allowing more Gwinnettians to be employed.
“Opportunity comes out of challenges – and we have certainly seen our share throughout this pandemic. We will continue working together to build coalitions, develop ideas and innovate in order to enhance the quality of life for our residents and strengthen the vibrant connections that unite our community,” said Hendrickson.
Upcoming initiatives—including Gwinnett County’s comprehensive human services needs assessment, United Way’s community equity assessment and Gwinnett Coalition’s development of the Gwinnett Health Finder tool—were announced, reinforcing the community’s focus on enhancing resident support and improving the continuum of care.
Paige Havens received the Gwinnett Coalition’s inaugural Changemaker Award, honoring a visionary and persistent leader whose innovative ideas inspire others towards collective impact, and Randy Redner received Primerica Foundation’s Heart of the Community Award, recognizing immeasurable contributions and philanthropic leadership during his tenure as CEO of the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia.
Other distinguished presenters included Dr. Audrey Arona, CEO of GNR Public Health; Jennifer Hibbard, CEO of View Point Health; Scott Mawdesley, vice president of Corners Academy; Denise Townsend, regional director of United Way of Greater Atlanta; DePriest Waddy, new CEO of Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia; and Dr. Calvin J. Watts, superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools.
“Over the past couple of years and under the banner of Gwinnett Cares, the community came together to support those most impacted by the pandemic,“ said Renee Byrd-Lewis, CEO of the Gwinnett Coalition. “The lesson learned is we accomplish great things when leadership, purpose and resources are aligned, and we must remember that lesson as we chart our path forward and foster equity and prosperity for all Gwinnettians.”
Director of Engagement