August 8, 2022

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Joins Kingsland Revitalization, Recovery Planning Efforts

Valdosta State University's Center for South Georgia Regional Impact has joined the City of Kingsland's revitalization and recovery planning efforts. Faculty from VSU's Department of Political Science developed a needs assessment to support the Coastal Georgia community as it works towards inclusive recovery following the global pandemic known as COVID-19.






VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University faculty recently developed a needs assessment to support a Coastal Georgia community as it works towards inclusive recovery following the global pandemic known as COVID-19.

Dr. Joseph Robbins and Dr. Keith Lee Jr. from VSU’s Department of Political Science said their 40-plus-question needs assessment survey went live a few days ago in Kingsland, Georgia, and residents are already responding.

Robbins, who serves as professor and head of VSU’s Department of Political Science, and Lee, who coordinates VSU’s public administration and organizational leadership programs, were tapped for this potentially life-changing collaboration by Darrell Moore, director of VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact.

The needs assessment survey is anonymous and voluntary and takes about 10 minutes to complete. It collects basic demographic information like age, current housing situation, how many people live in the home, and gross family income.

The survey then asks Kingsland residents about the impact of COVID-19 on their employment and childcare needs. It asks about their access to COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, Internet services, and sufficient food. It also asks residents if they have utilized resources from a nonprofit or community organization since the pandemic started, how they would respond to a financial emergency like a car repair, and what they need to get back on their feet.

Robbins said the needs assessment will help Kingsland leaders learn more about their residents’ recent and ongoing needs, especially their economic vulnerability and family stability.

“We want to know exactly how Kingsland was impacted by COVID-19 as it relates to human service aspects,” shared State Rep. Steven Sainz, who also serves as an executive advisor for Camden Connection, a nonprofit organization built to strengthen Kingsland and Camden County by encouraging the development of healthy, happy, and productive citizens. He has represented the residents of District 180 in the Georgia House of Representatives since 2019.

“We plan to complete the survey prior to December of this year, the sooner the better, of course, but it is essential that the data is valid so Kingsland city leaders can use it to assess the highest impact investment sources, as our team leverages the information when applying for competitive federal funds.”

In March 2021 Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a historic $1.9 trillion federal economic stimulus bill.

ARPA’s Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund has allocated more than $1.4 billion for use by cities in Georgia, including Kingsland.

Lee Spell, Kingsland city manager, said the needs assessment data will help Kingsland leaders ensure that any funds they are awarded benefit the people, businesses, and programs that need it the most. He said city leaders want to be sure they are doing all that is possible to improve economic conditions in their low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.

Leading this post-COVID-19 revitalization and recovery effort known as Project Stronger Kingsland are the City of Kingsland and Camden Connection’s network of community partners, with support from VSU, Coastal Counseling Center, the Camden County School System, and Neighborhood Nexus, an affiliate of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Neighborhood Nexus conducted “the initial analyses of available local data sources before handing the ball to VSU to fill in the gaps of understanding through the primary data matrix,” Sainz said.

“I have always appreciated VSU, initially as an alumnus through the Kings Bay satellite campus,” added Sainz, who earned a Bachelor of Political Science from VSU in 2017. He also holds an executive Master of Business Administration from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“I've grown to closely respect Merritt Myers Wall, VSU’s chief government relations and alumni officer, through my involvement in the legislature. Through her, I met Darrell Moore, director of VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact, and really liked the idea of the center. It was simply the first resource I thought about reaching out to when we were asked by the City of Kingsland to assist in this project.”

The Center for South Georgia Regional Impact was created in 2018 to help solidify VSU’s role as South Georgia’s flagship institution of higher education and unwavering commitment to being a catalyst for regional comprehensive progress. The center works with community leaders in VSU’s 41-county service area, and occasionally beyond, to identify issues they want to confront and then connects those community leaders to VSU faculty, staff, and students with the knowledge and skills needed to develop solutions and accelerate progress toward a better tomorrow.  

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