When you hear the name “Connie Fritz,” in Colquitt County, you automatically associate it with youth and children’s programs in the community. She has been a “youth guru” for about 20 years or more, working in youth ministry as a volunteer or on staff at a church and starting a children’s theatre program at the Colquitt County Arts Center.

“I was always a very involved parent, and I guess I never got out of that mode,” she said.

Fritz was born and, for the most part, raised in Moultrie. She had lived briefly in Ohio when she was a little girl but had moved back when she was in second grade.

“I’ve moved away three times as an adult and have ended up back here every time. It’s home,” she said.

Having her own children, she said, spurred her to be involved with their activities and what was going on with them. She was even employed with the Girls Scouts of America when she was living in Tallahassee, Fla., because of her daughter, Melissa. She also said from the time her daughter was a baby she worked in the nursery at church.

“As far back as I can remember, I have always been involved with the church,” she said.

She said that there was no question about her family going to church on Sunday when she was growing up, and they would even prepare the night before.

Fritz has been the director of Christian education at First Presbyterian Church in Moultrie for 10 years. She is also the children’s and youth events coordinator for the Flint River Presbytery, which includes 50 churches in the southwest area, and has held this job for nine years, she said.

Among the events she facilitates for the youth are a two-week summer camp and four major events throughout the year, including an overnight event, a Walk to Emmaus, a retreat at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center and a youth week in North Carolina.

“All of these events are organized, facilitated and planned by the youth council. They are a great group of young people,” she said.

She said she meets with the youth council four times a year to help them plan and organize the events. She said that it was really cool to see the youth start out as campers and then end up being counselors at the camps. She said it was good to see that it had meant so much to them that they wanted to give back.

“That’s the key. Giving back,” she said matter-of-factly.

She also said that Colquitt County did not realize how lucky they were to have the youth leaders they have at the various churches. She gets together with them once a week to plan and organize events for the youth of Colquitt County. She said that she and the group of youth leaders would love to expand their group to include every church in Colquitt County. They will meet next on Monday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m., at First Baptist Church.

The group is in the process of planning a community-wide, thirty-hour famine to be held in Feb., which is an event offered by World Vision to educate students on hunger issues in the world and their own community. On April, 30 - May 2, the youth leaders have planned to hold The Mix once again. This is a weekend of worship and service to the community for the youth of Colquitt County. She said they had about 400 students participate the last time the event was held. Also, the See You at the Pole rally is planned for September and this is a national day of prayer for students where they gather around their school’s flag pole.

“It’s just an opportunity for them to gather and pray. It’s student led,” she said.

Later on in the day, she said, she was having lunch with youth alumni. These were students who were in their second and third year of college. She said she loves to see how they have grown and changed over the years.

“I had some wonderful people in my life who helped me through some difficult times and made opportunities available to me that I never would have had. I think we’re all called, as Christians, to give back,” she said.

She jokingly said that she had “run the gamut” this week from a sleep-over with the Pre-K through 5th graders to taking the middle middle-schoolers shopping to taking the senior adults to a play in Albany.

“I have accomplished my job description this wee k.... and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it,” she said laughing.

She said, seriously, that before her feet hit the floor in the morning her prayer was that she would be a blessing to someone during the day.

“My goal at the end of the day is to look in the mirror and ask myself if I have been a blessing to someone today. The answer is not always ‘yes’ but that’s my goal,” she said.

She has received e-mails from some of her former youth telling her how she had touched their lives, she said, and she receives a blessing from it.

Fritz started a children’s theatre program, around 1993, at the Colquitt County Arts Center and is still doing it today in the form of ACT II.

“There’s just something about giving a child an opportunity to do something they would never get to do otherwise,” she said.

Before that, the only opportunity for kids to be involved with theatre was at the high school, she said. She said she realized that there were a lot of young folks who didn’t play sports.

“That outlet was missing,” she said.

So, she took classes to learn more about it and then became active with the Georgia Theatre Conference where she had the chance to learn from professionals all over the state.

She said her daughter was more artistic than her son, Doug, who was an athlete.

“She needed another outlet and theatre was there for her,” she said.

She said she likes theatre because a person gets to be someone else and she had been “bitten by the acting bug” in 10th grade when she played Ado Annie in Oklahoma under the direction of Bill Caldwell.

“Looking back, I had a lot of wonderful adults in my life who supported me and gave me opportunities,” she said.

She said starting the program was the best way for her to show them that she appreciated what they had done for her.

She also said she has never been the kind of person who saw a need for something and just let it go undone.

Fritz has also designed and made the costumes for the high school’s musical for the past eight years. She is now starting on the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” costumes for next February. She said she thought this was cool because she got to meet youth that she would otherwise never meet.

She is also on the board of directors for the Colquitt County Arts Center and has taught several classes at the center from children to adults. She is a member of the quilt guild and has been a Creative Memories scrapbooking consultant for seven years.

She said she is part of a scrapbooking group that meets at First Presbyterian once a month.

“We have a blast doing that,” she said.

She tells her husband, Steve, that this was when she got to play with people her own age.

She also said that she couldn’t do any of what she does without his support and “lots of tolerance.”

“We are truly the case of opposites attract. He is the calming force in my self-inflicted chaos,” she said laughing.

Her daughter, Melissa, is living in Moultrie and works as a Pre-K teacher at First Presbyterian Church and her son, Doug, is in the Navy, stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. She also has a step-daughter, Brooke, who lives in Atlanta and owns her own marketing firm and a step-son, Josh, who lives in Savannah, Ga., where he works in a medical assistance firm.

She and Steve also have two granddaughters, Mimi and Maegan, who are very involved with the youth theatre and just about everything their grandmother does, as well.

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