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Published December 23, 2015
Strike Force Demonstration Project Helps Ben Hill County Residents.
Twenty Ben Hill County residents finalized their wills this week as part of the County’s ongoing Strike Force Demonstration Project. This brings to 28 the number of wills that have been prepared to help insure a solid financial future for local families.

The 6-month effort was led by McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (McSEED), a grass roots not-for-profit based in Darien. It involved a series of public outreach seminars, individual counseling, collecting information, interviews with attorneys, preparing wills, and finally review and signing. This help was provided at no cost to them.

This demonstration project was developed in 2013 to attack the root causes of perpetual poverty in USDA-designated Strike Force Counties; demonstrating and documenting what can be done to shift the paradigm. The partners include Ben Hill County, the City of Fitzgerald, the Development Authority of Ben Hill County, GA Appleseed, McSEED, UGA AG Extension Service, and USDA Rural Development.

Wills are the only way to insure that property stays in the family after the owner dies. When a property owner passes without a will, the property frequently becomes contested. With multiple people claiming it, there is no clear owner, and it becomes “heirs’ property”. The property can’t be sold or used as collateral; meaning it is a stranded investment that does not benefit the family. Approximately 10% of the tax digest in Georgia counties is “heirs’ property”.

Creating wills is part of a comprehensive effort that includes public outreach and education, enhancing credit worthiness, exploring opportunities to create a small family farming business, introduction to emerging crop opportunities, developing a small business plan, providing technical advice, and assistance in applying for USDA grant and loan programs.

Ben Hill County’s Strike Force Demonstration Project is a unique approach to solving the most difficult problems of perpetual poverty that face rural counties throughout America. It brings together some of the most experienced and creative community developers in Georgia; focusing their skills on finding and documenting pathways to success for rural people in poverty.

Questions: Frank Feild, Ben Hill County Manager, (229) 426-5100