Darlene Duke Reflects on Service To Sweetwater Mission

For more than two decades Darlene Duke has been helping feed, clothe and educate people in south Cobb and Douglas Counties.

She stepped down as executive director of Sweetwater Mission at the end of the year but will continue part-time as business director.

Brian Hamilton took over as executive director this year. He is retired as General Manager of Georgia Operations from Thompson Tractor, the Caterpillar Dealer in Alabama, where he worked 34 years.

“Darlene has set a high standard of Excellence that I am committed to continue,” he said.

Sweetwater Mission, located at 6130 Hotel St., Austell, began in 1968 as members of several churches came together with a plan to help low-income families in their community. Volunteers formed a small used clothing distribution center and soon began to offer food and financial aid to neighbors in need. Community Action Mission Program or CAMP was formed – later known as Sweetwater Valley CAMP and now simply Sweetwater Mission.

Mrs. Duke began her career at the charity in 1994 as a volunteer though her church. The first Director, Ruth Reed, later asked her to join the board of directors. As it grew, the board sought to hire two part-time employees and Mrs. Dukes suggested they combine the jobs to make it full time. She went to work full time in 2003 and became director in 2005.

“I was doing client intake in the morning and financial aid appointments in the afternoon. That’s how I was able to do both jobs,” she said. “Since the first day there, it’s been a pleasure to go to work every day.”

Sweetwater Mission now serves some 1,500 clients per month with some 200 volunteers and four full-time and four part-time staff. Some 75 clients a day visit Monday through Saturday for donations of food, clothing and educational programs.

“We had some record breaking days right before Thanksgiving with 105 to 108 people back to back.” She said.

The agency may be small, but has gotten noticed by United Way of Metro Atlanta which placed a pilot program, Kid’s Home Initiative, to deal with homeless students at Sweetwater.

Comparisons to other agencies are difficult, but Mrs. Duke said that “Annual report to annual report, on a half million dollar budget we’re giving away more food, more items of clothing, and more financial aid than MUST was doing on an $8 million budget. But it’s a different model.”

Sweetwater does not government money. That allows them to assist undocumented clients.

“If the federal government will pay to send them to school, don’t tell me that I can’t pay to feed them,” she said.

The food program relies on cash donations from business, churches and individuals to stock a food pantry with items from the Atlanta Food Bank.

“It’s a walk in service – there’s an easy sign in process – but it doesn’t require a Social Security card and anyone can get food,” she said. “We rely heavily on donations of clothing and personal care items.”

While they have a good selection of women’s clothing, there is a need for men’s clothing and clothing for school-aged children.

On her two days off from work Mrs. Duke will stay busy with her volunteer work. She is Vice-President of Georgia Church Women United and wants to get more involved in United Methodist Women’s group at her church, Powder Springs United Methodist. She is active in the South Cobb Rotary, serving as past-president and treasurer.  She chair as backpack program and is on the board of the Douglas County homeless coalition.

What is she most proud of in her term with Sweetwater?

“It’s a tossup,” she said. “I love the food program because of how it really helps people. I’m also proud of the kid’s home initiative.”

“We have two people on our staff who formerly received assistance from us,” she said and it’s wonderful to have them feel good about the experience.

Keep Smyrna Beautiful Wins Awards

Keep Smyrna Beautiful was honored with a 2nd Place award for its overall programs in 2018. The award was presented by the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation on Dec. 6, and marks the 23rd consecutive year the local non-profit has been recognized for excellence in environmental efforts.

Keep Smyrna Beautiful’s programs touch on water quality, solid waste and recycling issues, trees, beautification, community sustainability (the community garden and outdoor market), mobility (bike racks), and community involvement (Adopt-A-Mile and other volunteer programs).

As Keep America Beautiful recently stated:

“Today, Americans are moving faster and doing more with the modern conveniences our society provides. But this comes at an expense to our natural resources, beauty and community cohesion we work every day to improve.

“Our national challenges with litter, recycling and beautifying communities will be even more relevant in the years to come as they were in 1953 when national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful was founded … more than in 1967 when canine TV star Lassie appeared as a mascot for our anti-littering public service campaign … and more than 1999, when we launched the Great American Cleanup.

“Because of our history, many people believe Keep America Beautiful is just an anti-litter organization. After all, “Every litter bit hurts!” But we are much more!”

As Keep America Beautiful is more than anti-litter, so is Keep Smyrna Beautiful.

“We are the official organization for all things environmental in the City of Smyrna. We have begun to work on projects such as Atlanta Regional Commission Green Cities Designation, EV Charging Stations, a Tree Save program. We are moving forward every day to help the City of Smyrna be the best it can be”, said Janet Liberman, Executive Director.

To volunteer, please contact Julie Barwig at jbarwig@smyrnaga.gov. To learn more about Keep Smyrna Beautiful, https://www.smyrnaga.gov/your-government/departments/keep-smyrna-beautiful

Barbara Hickey Named South Cobb Citizen Of Year

Volunteer, philanthropist and community leader are among the many titles that Barbara Hickey has accumulated in the past two decades. In November she was named South Cobb Citizen of the Year by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, the South Cobb Business Association and the South Cobb Rotary Club.

“This person has had a long history of service… She has been everywhere in the community, contributing, really pouring her heart into whatever need is there,” Cobb Chamber President and CEO Sharon Mason said. “Many of us know her as a great friend, as a mentor in our lives, whether it was her leading Diaper Day or forming the Cobb County Coalition of Business Associations (CCBA) to bring all the business associations together or meeting pretty much any need that was out there for non-profits, she has been there for so many people in this community.”

Wayne Dodd, president of the South Cobb Business Association, said Mrs. Hickey “saw a need and came up with a solution.”

“Her heart and her love has always been in South Cobb,” Dodd said. “Her past efforts will pay dearly for years to come.”

Albert McRae, president of the South Cobb Rotary Club, said Mrs. Hickey was always elegant and well spoken. “She’s a doer, a person of action. Barbara Hickey represents service over self,” he said.

Austin Eads, a past Rotary president said, “now most likely The world is a much better place because of Barbara Hickey, especially in South cob.”

Hickey, who is suffering from health problems, was not at the meeting. Her son and daughter-in-law Sean and Cecilia Rowe accepted the award in her place.

Sean Rowe said his mother loves Cobb County and its people, refusing to leave even when her husband Jim Hickey was offered a prestigious job elsewhere.

“She is a beacon of light,” Sean Rowe said. “We are so proud of her as a mom, as a citizen, as a grandmother, as a friend… For those of you who loved her for so many years, just know that it didn’t go missed. She knows it. She felt every ounce.”

‘Legally Blond, The Musical’

The Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School will present “Legally Blonde: The Musical” Jan. 31 through Feb. 3 at the Anderson Theatre, Cobb Civic Center, 548 S. Marietta Parkway, Marietta.

Based on the hit movie, Legally Blonde: The Musical follows Elle Woods as she traverses the halls of Harvard. After her break up with boyfriend Warner, Elle sets out to win him back by attending Harvard Law School. While there, she experiences the ups and downs of student life but sets out to prove herself to the world. This fabulous and action-packed musical will delight and enthrall with its memorable songs, charming characters, and scandal.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Jan. 31, Feb.1, Feb. 2, and a matinee at 3 p.m. on Feb. 3. Tickets are available at www.andersontheatre.org/encore-series.

 

Susan Thayer Named Smyrna Citizen Of The Year

Her resume includes jobs as teacher, principal and school board member. Now Susan Thayer can add the distinction of being Smyrna Citizen of the Year.

Mrs. Thayer was presented the award at the October Smyrna Division breakfast of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.

In her introduction by Smyrna Mayor Pro Tem Dereck Norton noted her career highlights and said, “she’s been a trusted voice on the school board for Smyrna for the past four years.”

During her 40 year career in education, she worked for three metro Atlanta school systems, serving as a teacher, a guidance counselor at Osborne High School and the principal of Pebblebrook High. She also served as the director of leadership development and the executive director of high schools for Cobb County Schools as well as the assistant superintendent of K-12 curriculum in neighboring Douglas County.

“Working for the community has been a pleasure and a real joy,” she said in accepting the award. “Working with you has been a delight.”

“Our community has so much going for it,” she said. “But our community will never be better than our schools.”

Thayer, the only woman on Cobb’s seven-member school board, did not seek re-election this year. She will be replaced by pediatric dentist Jaha Howard in January.

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said Thayer’s presence on the school board will be missed come January.

“Her biggest asset is the experience she brings from working in K-12 school districts,” he said. “She’s been a principal, she’s been a teacher and she’s worked in the central office … That experience is just invaluable.”

Thayer said she hopes to spend more time with her family next year, and looks forward to seeing how the “other half” lives.

She was nominated for Citizen of the Year by Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, who said he couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of the award.

“She’s done so much for the school system. She has probably been the most knowledgeable school board member we’ve had in her first and only term,” Bacon said. “She knew the system and she represented the Smyrna area as well as anybody could have represented us.”

Bacon’s sentiments were echoed by Smyrna councilman Derek Norton, who presented Thayer’s award.

“She’s a longtime friend and has been very, very good for us on the school board,” he said.

Thayer, who said she never expected to receive such a recognition, was lured to Brawner Hall early Wednesday under false pretenses by her friend, Cobb Superior Court Judge Ann Harris.

Thayer said she was told the 7:30 a.m. event was a presentation about the new Susan Todd Pearson Middle School, which the district is building to relieve overcrowded Campbell and Griffin in her portion of the county.

“She was certainly surprised,” Norton said.

Thayer said serving on the school board would be her last professional activity, calling it a “tremendous honor” to step down with the accolade.

“What a way to go out,” she said. “It’s very flattering and very humbling.”

Harvest Festival To Be Held at Mable House

The Harvest Festival will be held at the Mable House Historic Grounds on October 13.

Produced by The Friends of The Mable House in partnership with Cobb Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, The Harvest Festival was formerly the Storytelling Festival.

“The Friends organization wanted to rebrand the event to create an enhanced family experience,” said Libby Geiselmayr, Mable House Arts Center Coordinator.

Professional storytellers Josie Bailey and Joanna Maddox will be telling tales, plus, there will be musical performances, food and other activities.

This free event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. will include Hay Rides given by the South Cobb Lions Club, a sweet potato garden, corn shucking, butter churning, homemade Johnny cakes, professional blacksmith Wind Chapman, farm animals, live storytellers, arts and crafts with clay throwing demonstrations, old time games, sweets and drinks by the girl scouts, live musical performances, Mother Goose, and gold panning.

There will be Historic House Tours with live demonstrations of quilting, spinning, weaving and sewing.

The South Cobb Lions Club will be selling BBQ both Saturday and Sunday.

Musical performances are set by FlatPickin’, Inc., and Soulful Praise, the Pebblebrook High School Gospel Choir.

From the October 2018 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Ideas Sought For Mableton Town Square

The Mableton Improvement Coalition invites residents to come to the Mableton Square on Friday, Oct. 12 from 2 to 6 p.m. and share ideas for the square. What should be there? A playground? Benches? Bandstand? Or something else?

Cobb PARKS will be on hand to collect your ideas and answer your questions along with MIC’s Parks Committee. All ideas and input are welcome!

The Square is part of the master plan for Mableton’s historic center. It was constructed with SPLOST funding, and is actually larger than the original design. Given the size, there is opportunity for uses that weren’t envisioned in the planning stages.

“Right now, there isn’t funding for construction. But, we can’t seek funding without a plan that lays out what we want,” said Joel Cope, MIC President. “And that’s where you come in. We need to hear from you and get your ideas. We’ve followed the Facebook conversations, but this event will give us the chance to talk in person and for you to talk with experts who can answer your questions and evaluate your ideas.”

The Real Mexican Vittles food tent will be onsite with food for purchase for your dining pleasure. Bring a chair or a picnic blanket and enjoy a late lunch or dinner on the Square.

Parking at the Square is limited, so please be patient and courteous.

From the October 2018 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.

Author To Visit For ‘Smyrna Reads’

In Thomas Mullen’s novel, Darktown, the reader follows the investigation of the murder of a young woman in post-WWII Atlanta. The investigating officers, Boggs and Smith, are two of the first African-American officers to integrate Atlanta’s police department.

Among shady moonshiners, duplicitous madams, crooked lawmen, and the constant restrictions of Jim Crow, Boggs and Smith risk their new jobs, and their lives, while navigating a dangerous world—a world on the cusp of great change.

Smyrna Public Library has chosen Darktown for its 2018 “Smyrna Reads” campaign, an annual
community-wide read initiative. The library will sponsor a book discussion on Friday, Oct. 12, at noon in the library meeting room. The discussion is free of charge and open to the public.

An appearance by author Thomas Mullen will conclude the “Smyrna Reads” events on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 3 p.m. at the historic Reed House.

The author will discuss Darktown and its sequel
Lightning Men as well as his other works. A book sale and signing will follow, hosted by Bookmiser New & Used Books. Refreshments will be served. Reed House is located at 3080 Atlanta Road in Smyrna.

Mullen’s appearance is sponsored by the Friends of Smyrna Library and is free of charge. Seating is limited, so attendees must RSVP to sreference@smyrnaga.gov.

Kids Movie Night Is Friday In Smyrna

Casper’s Fall Fun and Movie Night will be held Friday, Oct. 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. on the Village Green in Smyrna.

Bring the kids for a fun-filled evening with have carnival games, inflatables, hay rides, and much more. The evening will end with the movie “Coco” being shown on a giant inflatable screen on the Veterans Memorial lawn.

Admission is free. Tickets for carnival games, inflatables and hayrides will be available for purchase.

Boy Scouts, Legion Retire Old Flags

Boy Scout Troop 250 held a Flag Retirement Ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, at American Legion Post 160, the Troop’s chartering organization. Flag Day, June 14, is recommended as the most appropriate day on which to annually hold this ceremony.

The ceremony was a joint and coordinated effort between the Scouts and the Legionnaires. Troop 250 was tasked over a year ago to collect the unserviceable flags presented to Post 160 at its flag drop box.

Any person may drop off a flag suggested as unserviceable and it will be included in future ceremonies. Members of the Troop prepare flags at meetings when time permits and for this ceremony, 51 flags were retired. Additional flags may be retired in coming months and on Flag Day in 2019.

Post Commander Wade Lnenicka opened the program and the Post Chaplain offered prayer.

The American Legion’s Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags is a dignified tribute to the U.S. flag and to its symbolism. The ceremony followed rules of civilian flag courtesy popularly known as the Flag Code developed in 1923.

The Scouts solemnly presented three flags at a time, each folded in the traditional triangle and for each all present were at attention, saluting the flag until presented into the fire. This was repeated with all at attention until the last flags were presented and completely consumed. The ashes were collected and will be buried on Post 160 property in a proper final resting ceremony.

While any one person or group may properly dispose of unserviceable flags, the cooperation between the American Legion Post 160, the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 160, Sons of the American Legion Squadron 160, Boy Scout Troop 250, Venture Crew 11, and Girl Scout Troop 1872, along with members of Smyrna’s Fire Station 1, demonstrated the community commitment to honor the flag, public service and show how multiple groups can work together.

Scoutmaster Tony Waybright noted that the troop “hopes to make this an annual event at Post 160 giving Flag Day a prominent position between Smyrna’s patriotic celebrations of Memorial Day and Independence Day.”

He said the ceremony is also a way of letting Smyrna residents know that if they have old, unserviceable flags to be disposed of, to bring them to Post 160.

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 was officially established by the Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916, and on August 3, 1949 President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.

From the July 2018 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton, Powder Springs and Austell, GA.