sheets of colorful paper taped to the wall at the Walton County School District annex.  

Leaders from around the county have written what they think those needs are on paper in Magic Marker.

Transportation. Housing. STDs. Domestic violence. And so on.

A needs assessment is a simple concept. The participants, which range from the Boys & Girls Club to city councilmembers to the health department, will gather data on various problems around Walton County to try to figure out the biggest needs.

But it will be a challenge to pull off, said Dena Huff, who works for the Georgia Family Connection Partnership and is responsible for coordinating the effort. If all goes well, it will be done by July 2019.

Step one was writing down some initial suspicions of what those needs might be and then clarifying each of them in focus groups.

Step two will be gathering data on each of these needs through surveys, interviews and other means.

Step three will be to compile all that information into a user-friendly document that can be used by anyone who might need it.

The last time Walton County did a needs assessment was 2011. The new data will be a useful tool for numerous groups around the county.

Nonprofits, for example, can use the numbers for grant-writing purposes.

Most funding sources, like government and foundation grants, want to see statistical needs before they dole out money. The needs assessment will provide that.

Monica Trimble, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said the assessment will allow her to offer more programs.

“We have a beautiful large facility that is only being used half the day during the school year,” Trimble said. 

“With the information that is being gathered we can serve so much more by hosting clinics, job fairs, life skills classes and more.”

Anna Blount, who runs Team Up Mentoring, a group that pairs kids who have experienced trauma with mentors, is another participant.

Part of her work involves surveying kids with a special set of questions that measure the amount of trauma they have experienced in their lives.

The needs assessment will allow her to more widely distribute that survey and come up with an idea of how much trauma people in Walton County have experienced in their lives.

Beyond serving the needs of individual non-profits, Huff said the document will be of interest to anyone who cares about Walton County.

That could mean businesses or just concerned citizens.

“Anyone will be able to look at it and say ‘Whoa, we need some work here’ or ‘Whoa, we’re doing really well here,’” she said.

And, at the end of the day, that’s whom the final product belongs to.

“It’s not my document or GAFCP’s document,” she said, “It’s the community’s document.”

Andrew Kenneson was a staff writer for The Walton Tribune from 2018-20.

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