Character First program presented to city

By Megan R. Harrell

STAR STAFF

   City and county officials, along with local business owners, met yesterday at the Elizabethton Alliance Church for the kick-off of a Character First campaign in Elizabethton. Walter Barringer, Character Consultant, presented material on the program that has been embraced nationwide.
   Character First was established in 1992 by a business owner who was attempting to solve problems within his own company. The program has caught on nationally with as many as four states, and more than 175 cities across the country adopting the program. Baton Rouge, La., adopted the program and has had a substantial decrease in the number of violent crimes committed citywide. It is a non-profit organization that trains leaders to build character in other people.
   The City Council adopted a resolution in March of 1999 that established Elizabethton as a City of Character with the International Association of Character Cities (IACC). The city will not be able to use the IACC's national logo until it trains city officials and business owners in the Character First program.
   City Councilman Richard Sammons fully supports the program. "It is my goal to be a leader in Eastern Tennessee, if not the whole state of Tennessee with this," Sammons said.
   The city saw a need for the Character First resolution because of the increase of juvenile crimes at younger ages, and the increase in the severity of them in Elizabethton. It noted that youth offenders were not aware of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The City Council also cited in the resolution a need for the teaching of positive character traits.
   "The city can develop worthwhile causes and can promote good character," Barringer said. "People want recognition; kids want recognition and appreciation. This is one way of getting that done and building character, so when employers start hiring they've got people they don't have to train in good character because it is already there."
   Barringer stated that character is the most accurate predictor of a person's future. He defined character as what people do when they are alone, and cited the lack of it as the cause of the deterioration of communities.
   Character First is designed to change the community by emphasizing character. The family is the center of the program, then it extends out to the local government, workplace, school, faith community, media, and law enforcement agencies. It teaches 49 different character qualities including self-control, leadership, creativity, enthusiasm, forgiveness and generosity. Each month the Character First concentrates on one particular quality and issues bulletins that teach the promotion of that individual quality.
   Local businesses interested in the program would be charged $1,950 for a one-day consultation and training session. Non-profit organizations and the local government would be charged only $975 for the same session.
   There will be an open training course for Character First held in Elizabethton on Feb. 27 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost is $195 for the cost of materials and lunch. For more information you may go to www.characterfirst.com.