Everyone at Fowler Drive Elementary School seems to know and love Thornton, who was the Clarke County Board of Education representative at the assembly. When she stood to give her welcoming speech, everyone there, including Principal Annisa Johnson, had all the confidence in the world that Thornton would deliver.
Passionate is the best word to describe Thorton. She is the director of the Georgia Clients Council, a nonprofit started by Georgia Legal Services that seeks to provide the information, training and support necessary for low-income people to advocate for
themselves but that’s not all she does. Thornton is involved in everything, from politics, to education to public housing. She says she’s never known any different. She’s always been involved.
Ovita Thornton was born in Philadelphia, and went to college at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. Although she wasn’t born in Athens, or even Georgia, Thornton has become a staple in the Athens community since she moved here in the early 80s.
Thornton’s main focus in Athens is Bethel Midtown Village, a section 8 housing complex off of Hawthorne Avenue. Bethel homes is known for its above-average crime rate, and many Athens locals want the public housing moved further away from Downtown Athens.
Thornton believes that Bethel shouldn’t be moved. She says, “Nobody has convinced me that demolishing Bethel Homes so it will fit with the scheme of downtown will be the best thing for all the mothers and kids that live there.”
She believes that Bethel can be brought back to life, and with a little help, be a beneficial part of the Athens community. To get this help, the Georgia Clients Council is working with UGA Professor Pratt Cassity and his environmental design class to improve the urban planning of Bethel Midtown Village and increase its aesthetic to help the homes fit in with the rest of downtown.
According to the Athens Banner Herald’s website, some of the plans professor Cassity’s students came up with include increases in security, improvements in landscaping and the addition of playground equipment. They hope these changes will improve the quality of life for the residents while also making Bethel homes more visually appealing.
Although Thornton is very much in favor of saving Bethel Homes, she doesn’t believe it should be a permanent residence.
“I don’t think anybody should be a lifelong [resident] in Section 8 housing unless they’re elderly, unless they have a physical or mental ailment,” she said.
Georgia Client’s Council wants to give people in the community the skills necessary to be employed. Since 2009, Thornton has been working to help the people of Bethel Homes earn GEDs and college degrees so that they can be more employable.
As a strong believer in education, Thornton is also a member of the Clarke County School Board. She wants to use her place on the board to educate school employees about how state and federal decisions will affect schools and teachers on the local level.
Thornton is so involved in the Athens community that she has little time for hobbies. She says she doesn’t mind. She prefers spending her down time with her friends and family, chatting and enjoying their company, but when she does have time to spare, she likes to eat Sunday brunch at Porterhouse Grill.
Whether she’s getting elementary school students excited to take a test or inspiring college students to improve the community, Ovita Thorton is always striving to make positive contributions. Thornton doesn’t quit when a project is finished. She believes there’s always more to be done.
“Every time we have a success I say the same thing, we’re just turning the corner.”