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Family a top priority for Sanford leaders in developing city plan

Posted December 17, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST

The buy-in from Sanford residents surrounding the changes and updates to the city have created a palpable community environment reminiscent of a bygone era. (monkeybusinessimages/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.

Finding the best place to live, settle down and raise a family can be an incredibly difficult decision.

You may ask yourself: Are there job opportunities in this community? Does it have affordable neighborhoods that are safe to live in? How are the school districts? Does the community put a priority on kids, making sure there's appropriate entertainment and programming for them? Does it provide amenities and outdoor recreation opportunities? Will my family like it there?

While these questions and several others weigh on the minds of people who are moving, parents in Sanford and Lee County don't have to worry about whether the community really puts its residents first. Sanford's community and leaders have come together to ensure that their plan to reinvigorate the city includes families as a top priority.

"I'm from Sanford, we moved back home about six years ago," said Kelli Laudate, parent and executive director for Downtown Sanford Inc. "We still say it's the best decision we've ever made to bring our family back home. We feel we have the opportunity to give back to our community that raised us."

As part of Mayor Chet Mann's Open for Business Agenda, family concerns were a top priority. The plan called for expedited review processes for master planned communities, including preservation of open spaces, reserved areas for schools, and the creation of a youth sports complex to host sports league tournaments and year-round facilities.

Children have already benefited from the reinvestment in the community, most recently with the opening of the Kiwanis Family Park and splash pad.

The buy-in from Sanford residents surrounding the changes and updates to the city have created a palpable community environment reminiscent of a bygone era.

"Our town is where our neighbors look out for one another," Laudate said. "We all kind of look out for one another. A lot of the people here are deeply rooted. It's neat to raise your family that way. We feel very vested in creating a strong community."

A big part in forging that community is through a robust network of schools. From an early age, children in Sanford have a variety of options for daycare and pre-k. There's also a strong emphasis placed on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) at all levels.

"I think we have a really strong school system," Laudate said. "What is really exciting is that we have opened our first Magnet STEAM, WB Wicker Elementary School. I really feel like there's lots of choices you can make for your child -- there's one year-round elementary school and one charter school, we have another charter school opening in 2020, two Christian schools, both of our high schools (have strong) academies, and there's early college."

And if students choose to remain in Sanford once they finish high school, Central Carolina Community College is located right nearby. It offers a multitude of programs, including specialized two-year technical programs that graduate many employees to the local manufacturing community.

Additionally, there are a number of extracurricular activities available to families in the community ranging from strong school-sponsored athletics programs to local clubs, and parks and rec-sponsored events. The Temple Theatre offers summer courses for youth, ending with a performance for parents.

"You'll see everything from young adults having a drink to families with their kids," said Kelly Klug, a local business owner. Klug also serves as the chair of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance - Chamber Board and is the grants coordinator for Central Carolina Community College. "[Sanford] is a place people tend to congregate. The thing I love about it is, as a small town, there's an element of safety that's involved. Everybody sort of knows everybody. There's kids running around. You feel safe letting them have some freedom."

With its affordable cost of living, strong education system, abundance of amenities and growing downtown area, Sanford is a family friendly area that caters to kids and parents alike.

This article was written for our sponsor, the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.

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