The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to affect millions of people across the world. Yet, there are many who are working tirelessly to ensure that their communities are taken care of during this difficult time.
One of those front-line warriors is Fort Valley State University alumna Nicole Howell. The 2017 Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies graduate, who will earn her Master of Public Health in December 2020, serves as a community coordinator for the Macon County Family Connection in Montezuma, Georgia. This pandemic is a time for her to reach out and put her resources to work.
“A Family Connection community coordinator is the glue in a community. We plan, coordinate and implement city and county programs that address serious challenges facing children and families,” Howell said. There is one coordinator in all 159 counties in Georgia.
Although she is now working from home due to COVID-19, this has not stopped Howell from serving the people in her community. She collaborates with elected officials such as Representative Patty Bentley and Governor Brian Kemp, nonprofit organization United Way, the Macon County School System and many other community organizations to assist with receiving safety alerts and updates, food drives, elderly needs and meals for local children.
In addition, as a board member of the Macon County Boys and Girls Club and the Macon County Chamber of Commerce, she partnered with the local recreation department and the Boys and Girls Club president in Albany, Georgia, to feed more than 150 families in her community. She also applied for a grant that could assist with providing digital devices to students while they are out of school. As a board member of the Macon County Health Department, she shares daily numbers, fact sheets and other resources on the Macon County Family Connection Facebook page.
“Our biggest concern is seniors, children and families,” Howell said. “We want to make sure that people are getting the food and resources they need.”
Howell is proud of how far the collaborative has come since her first day on the job four years ago. Her initial task was to recreate the program.
“It was one of the best things that could have happened,” she said. “We started with a group of about five members. It has grown to 45 members over the last four years. This is a group of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, mental health and health care professionals, and county commissioners.”
The 20-year social work professional said they are one of the largest statewide networks of community collaboratives in the nation. They also have FVSU group members including the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), Upward Bound and the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program (CDEP).
Passionate about serving others, Howell said her job brings her fulfillment, especially during these uncertain times.
“I have always wanted to help in my community,” she said.
Rural Leader Magazine recognized the FVSU graduate as one of its 2019 Small Town America’s 100 Most Influential People. Part of the criteria is that the nominee must have made a significant contribution to his or her community.
“We all have a purpose. Being a servant leader in the community is where I am supposed to be,” Howell said. “The work I do is so important because of lack of knowledge.”
Therefore, the Macon County coordinator said it is her duty to educate the community.
“I am going to do this as long as I have breath in my body and I can be a light and inform our communities about how they can live longer, healthier lives,” Howell said.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic opened her eyes to making sure that her relationship with God is in order.
“At the end of the day, that is all that is going to matter,” she declared.
Howell advises people to check on others and to not let work and being at home consume them.
“Sometimes you have to sit back and breathe. Go outside and look at nature. We still must be thankful in all things,” she encouraged. She and her husband have found creative ways to educate their two young sons such as teaching them to count while picking up pinecones.
Although COVID-19 has changed her daily life, Howell said prayer keeps her going. “Fear and faith do not go together. Even during trying times, we must stay encouraged, as well as encourage each other, and know that we will get through this,” she said.
For assistance, contact Howell at (478) 244-8216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.