PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) – A major push is underway in Petersburg to get residents to fill out their 2010 census form.
During the last census in 2000, Petersburg's return rate was far below the national average. Now, city leaders are working to boost participation in the upcoming census.
They say everyone needs to be counted -- now more than ever.
"I believe in the census. I've been able to fill out 2 since I've become eligible," said resident Phil Cheney.
In Petersburg, only 57 percent of residents filled out their census form in 2000. City leaders say fear of intrusion and the city's large transient population are two reasons why.
"We have a college population, a military population. We have a small, compared to other places, immigrant population and we have the mobility of our citizens from place to place within the city," said Mayor Annie Mickens.
Now, there's a push for those residents and others who qualify to fill out their 2010 census form.
City leaders are pounding the point -- that data collected from the census not only determines the population of a general area, but can also be used to determine the number of United States representatives assigned to a state, and how much money a state is given.
"We definitely need to know where people are so we can solicit for the type of resources that will allow us to provide good quality of life services for people - so everybody's impacted," said Mickens.
Some residents, like Mandy Stephenson, have decided to echo that message to friends, family and co-workers who have expressed doubt about mailing in their census data.
"I talk to them about these things and try not only to help myself and my family. I do it for others as well," said Stephenson.
City leaders say returning your census information is a small step that could come with big benefits for you and your neighbors.
The city is hosting several upcoming census awareness events and programs. One will take place this Saturday from noon to four at the Regional Art Center on Sycamore Street in Petersburg. There will be food and games for the kids and of course lots of information about the census process. Residents are encouraged to participate.