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Posts by Vira Salzburn

Savannah Philanthropic Partners donates $50,000 to Safety Net Planning Council

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) – A program aimed at making a difference for young people at risk for suicide getting a show of support from women in the community today.

Women, children and mental health – that’s the focus of the Savannah Philanthropic Partners…guiding how they make one big donation each year.

This year, the group is sending their $50,000 donation to Chatham County Safety Net Planning council.

The group was founded by four women just three years ago…and now includes 41 women…all who do a lot of work to make sure their donation has the greatest impact possible.

“We all decided that instead of diving up the $50,000, we wanted to have one large sum going to a non-profit that would make a big difference,” said Jean Ahrens, the founder of Savannah Philanthropic Partners.

The Safety Net Planning Council runs several programs – including trauma-sensitive yoga and Front Porch ACTS for at-risk youth.

Those are all offered at no cost to the community.

Source: WTOC, Published: Jan. 10, 2023

Community Organizations to Receive State of Hope Funding

Atlanta, GA – The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced the newest batch of State of Hope sites. The 26 selected sites will receive technical assistance and funding from DHS’ Division of Family and Children Services to invest in safety nets that ensure Georgia’s children and families are safe, thriving, and full of hope.

“We were thrilled by the volume of ideas submitted this year and to be able to offer funding to a record-breaking number of organizations,” said LaMarva Ivory, DHS’ Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs. “These hope-givers make our communities stronger and more nurturing. We look forward to seeing their continued, positive impact on Georgians’ safety and success.”

The 2022 awardees [including the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council] comprise nonprofits spanning 13 regions of the state. View the full list and project summaries here. Since its 2018 launch, State of Hope has supported more than 300 organizations, all of which remain in the Hope Ecosystem, where they continue to connect, learn, and collaborate to create family-centered support systems.

What is State of Hope?

State of Hope is an initiative that seeks to encourage nonprofits, philanthropies, government, businesses and communities to collaborate closely to build local safety nets that will prevent conditions that contribute to disparities in education, threaten a family’s self-sufficiency and could lead to child abuse and neglect.

Our ultimate vision is having 14 Regions of Hope across Georgia. This could be one or multiple sites/projects in each region.

To learn more about State of Hope, visit For general questions, or to be added to the State of Hope mailing list, please email

Source: Georgia Department of Human Services, Published November 10, 2022

September in Savannah: Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. We use this month to promote safety, resilience, and peace in our community.

Join Savannah-Chatham community organizations for events and gatherings aiming to bring people together, share resources, and spread compassion and hope.


FRIDAY 9th, 9:30AM
Commission Chambers of the Old Courthouse
Chatham County Board of Commissioners
Proclamation of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Georgia Southern Armstrong Campus

  • Road to Resilience Symposium
    Free conference on trauma, mindfulness, resilience, wellness, suicide prevention and more!
    Register HERE
  • Brake the Stigma Mental Health Awareness Car Show
    Amazing vehicles, vendors, raffles, awards, giveaways, food trucks, and more!
    Event Details HERE

TUESDAY 21st, 9AM-10:30AM & MONDAY 26th 11AM-12:30PM
The Community Resiliency Model (CRM)
Free skill-building wellbeing workshops.
Register HERE

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
Free 2-day training in suicide first aid.
Register HERE

SATURDAY 24th, 9:30AM
Lake Mayer Park
Out of the Darkness Savannah Walk
A journey of remembrance, hope, and support.
Event Details HERE

SUNDAY 25th, 12-4PM
Daffin Park
Savannah Day of Peace: Peace in the Park
A Peace Parade, Courageous Conversation Circle, Wellness Area for Mental Health, Youth Artist Corner, 2022 Peace builder Award and more!
Event Details HERE

Download & Share the September in Savannah PDF Flyer

Ms. Lizann Roberts Recognized for Supporting Community Suicide Prevention

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners recognized community-based suicide prevention and resiliency-building efforts with a proclamation in September, which is suicide prevention awareness month.  Ms. Tara Jennings, Strategic Planning Administrator at Chatham County, accepted the proclamation on behalf of community partners working together to build a suicide safer Chatham County.

The proclamation was shared with Ms. Lizann Roberts, Executive Director of Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition (CGIC), in recognition of her strategic leadership and fundraising accomplishments supporting mental health, suicide prevention, and resiliency-building initiatives in the community.

“Ms. Roberts is a key partner and leader whose vision, energy, and ability to bring community stakeholders together have been essential in creating sustainable and impactful programs,” said Ms. Vira Salzburn, Program Director for Safety & Resilience Programs at Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (CCSNPC). “She is a wonderful partner and always willing to drive change through real collaboration.”

“We appreciate Ms. Roberts and her unwavering support of the Planning Council,” said Mr. Reginald Lee, CCSNPC Executive Director. “We are looking forward to continuing our work and making a difference in the lives of our residents.”

Read the proclamation here.

Planning Council Successfully Implements RAM Free Dental Clinic

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. – Remote Area Medical-RAM® Free Dental Clinic hosted by the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (Planning Council) provided a free dental care pop-up clinic on August 28-29th for Chatham County residents at the Garden City Recreation Center.

In just 2 days, more than 100 volunteers treated 174 underserved and uninsured individuals providing $77,513 worth of free oral health services including cleanings, extractions, fillings, and root canals. Additionally,  165 oral health cancer screening were completed by faculty and students from the Georgia Southern University, Communication Sciences and Disorders program.

Patients were also able to receive COVID-19 vaccines and learn about various community programs and services from the participating vendors, to include Rape Crisis Center, The Salvation Army, St. Joseph’s/Candler African American Resource Center, Migrant Equity Southeast, Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), and Communications and Disorders master’s program at Georgia Southern University.

The clinic received financial and in-kind support from Chatham County Board of Commissioners, City of Savannah, Remote Area Medical-RAM®, Agenda Latina, The Savannah Community Foundation, Academy of General Dentistry Foundation, and Bio-One.

Tears of relief and and happy smiles from grateful patients spoke to the importance of providing accessible and affordable oral health services and addressing health disparities in the community.

The Planning Council’s Executive Director, Mr. Reginald Lee, who wholeheartedly and successfully led this effort with a great team of professionals and volunteers, thanks all of the partners and supporters of the Free Dental Clinic.

Watch this video report from the Free Dental Clinic and visit these media sites with news coverage of the clinic:

ABC Nightline Highlights the Work of the Planning Council

On a small stage in Savannah, Georgia, an officer with the city’s police department puts his improv skills to the test Wednesday in an acting class. In part, the class was meant to teach the students about observational awareness while also fostering community relations.

Anthony Watkins is an officer with the Savannah Police Department who took part in the class. The improv drill asked participants in the class to pretend they’re on a bus and to mimic the bus driver’s overly theatrical behaviors.

“I think as far as what I’m learning today, this is just not my comfort zone,” Watkins told “Nightline.” “Even being in this class for a short time today is just kind of pushing me to work and operate in a way that I would never have thought of before.”

The exercise, which requires participants to observe the driver and act on social cues, made Watkins feel stressed, he said. But he also sees the benefit of being taken out of his comfort zone.

“I think, as police officers, we’re always taught to be that authority … figure that is taking charge on scene and wanting to move in one specific direction,” Watkins told “Nightline.” “[The training] is kind of important to break us out of our comfort zone to where we can really achieve a personal connection. … Once you have that personal connection, it kind of creates a bond where a more peaceful resolution could be achieved.”

Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council, Inc. Awarded Funding to Become a State of Hope Site

Savannah, GA – Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council, Inc. (Planning Council) was recently selected to become a designated State of Hope site and to receive funding to aid with project implementation.

During the third round of solicitations for “big ideas” from communities, the Planning Council submitted a proposal to serve the Chatham County area by developing and implementing Mindful Self-Compassion program to build resilience and enhance emotional wellbeing of its residents. More than 200 applications were submitted with approximately 10% of the applicants being selected to receive funding.

“We were very impressed with the applicants this year,” said DFCS Director Tom Rawlings. “Some are large and comprehensive, and others are smaller grassroots organizations who are just getting started, but all are changing lives for the better in their communities.”

The State of Hope initiative aims to transform Georgia into a collection of communities where children and families have all they need to thrive and succeed. Innovative local strategies and partnerships are key to achieving that goal and are asked to submit “big ideas” that focus on improving the lives of children and families in one or more of four categories: education, trauma-informed practice, quality caregiving, and economic self-sufficiency.

The State of Hope initiative was started in 2018 through a partnership between the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Georgia State University’s Center for Professional Excellence, and Georgia Family Connection Partnership. Currently, 253 organizations have been designated as State of Hope sites and belong to the larger community – the Hope Ecosystem – where they can access technical assistance and opportunities for funding, build partnerships, and connect with each other.

To learn more or participate in the State of Hope initiative, go to

Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council Announces New Executive Director, Reginald C. Lee

June 18, 2019 (SAVANNAH, Ga) — The Executive Board of the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (Planning Council) is pleased to announce that Reginald C. Lee will be joining the Planning Council as Executive Director on July 22nd.

Reginald earned a Bachelor of Professional Studies from Memphis State University, majoring in Human Service Administration.  Additionally, he received a Master of Arts Degree, with honors, from Webster University concentrating in Management and Leadership.

During his 38-year career in social services, Reginald has been tireless in his efforts to serve the homeless and individuals that are disenfranchised, incarcerated, and people recovering from addictions.

Prior to accepting this position, Reginald has most recently served as the Director of Programs at Old Savannah City Mission.  In the course of his career he has held various social service positions in Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri. These positions include: Executive Director of United Methodist Metro Ministry, Director of Homeless Services for the City of St. Louis, Senior Associate for the United Way in St Louis, and Senior Human Service Specialist for the Darlington County Department of Social Services.

Reginald has been an active community advocate wherever he has lived and has served on many boards addressing social service needs.  He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless, Savannah Care Center, and J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center.  He has also served on the Board of Directors for St. Louis Area Food Bank, St. Louis Emergency Food and Shelter National Board, and the Lutheran High School Association of St. Louis. Reginald also served as a volunteer for the Kairos Prison Ministry.

Reginald is married to Dr. Rochelle Bornett Lee, an Assistant Professor of Nuclear Medicine Technology at Georgia Southern University. He and his wife have two adult children, Jocelyn and Reginald, who share his passion for human service as demonstrated by careers in healthcare and education.

Please help us welcome Reginald C. Lee to the Planning Council. In his new role as Executive Director, we are confident that he will continue to be a servant leader and an effective advocate and facilitator of community collaboration and cooperation in meeting community healthcare needs.

Safety Net Recognizes Robyn Wainner as Outstanding Partner

At the June Full Council Meeting, Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council recognized Robyn Wainner, Director of Asset Building and Financial Empowerment, Step Up Savannah, as Outstanding Partner.

Earlier in the month, Ms. Wainner had announced that she would be relocating to the sunny state of Florida and thus leaving our town and Step Up Savannah. The Council members did not want to let Ms. Wainner go without expressing their appreciation of her excellent efforts in supporting Safety Net and commitment to serving our community.

As the Director of Asset Building and Financial Empowerment Director, in the last 4 years, Ms. Wainner has played a key role in helping establishing a strong partnership between Step Up Savannah and Safety Net.

“You have been such a kind and generous partner, a good friend and terrific non-profit administrator, manager and fundraiser.  For those of you who may not know our history, Robyn and I met in April 2014 to work collaboratively on a grant for the National League of Cities that would become the project, The Mayor’s Campaign for Healthy Kids and Families which is now known as the Coastal Campaign for Healthy Kids.  As an aside, many of you know how much the success of that program is because of having Robyn on our leadership team,” said Ms. Hayes in her farewell speech.

Indeed, the Coastal Campaign for Healthy Kids would not be the same as it is today without Ms. Wainner. With grateful hearts for the time we were able to work  and grow together and for the families that we were able to help together our  team wishes Ms. Wainner every success in her new venture and hopes that she will continue making a difference in the lives of others through her work and friendship.


Catham County Safety Net Planning Council Honors Its Founding Chair and Board Member, Diane Weems, MD

Catham County Safety Net Planning Council honored Diane Z. Weems, MD, Safety Net’s founding Chair and Board Member, who retired as Board Chair in March 2018.

In grateful recognition for her visionary leadership, wisdom and unwavering commitment to the Council, and for always championing the needs of our most vulnerable in Chatham County, the Safety Net Executive Director Elisabeth Hayes and the new Board Chair, Mark C. Johnson, MD,  presented Dr. Weems with a special recognition award.

Since its founding in 2004—14 year ago—Dr. Weems have generously given Safety Net her time, her wisdom, and her dedication. As the Chief Medical Officer and then the Director of the Coastal Health District, she acted as the nonpartisan convener and brought together competing organizations in the healthcare sector creating trust and  building stronger and more meaningful relationships between the agencies.

“Your leadership, your counsel, and your expertise have helped our organization to make a tremendous impact on our community and have helped me grow both professionally and personally, ” said Ms. Hayes in her heartfelt speech during the meeting.

Dr. Weems gratefully accepted the award and noted that she was delighted to see how Safety Net had grown over the past few years and was excited for the organization’s future under its great  leadership.

Effective April 1, 2018 Mark C. Johnson, MD, CEO, Gateway Behavioral Health Services, Community Service Board, Coastal Georgia stepped into a role of the Safety Net Board Chair replacing retiring Board Member and Board Chair, Dr. Diane Weems.