The Calhoun Women’s Club voted Thursday night to select the Voluntary Action Center as its partner for the 2020 Sequoyah Ball, which has raised more than $700,000 for agencies and institutions in Calhoun and Gordon County since 1988. Partnering organizations receive all the proceeds from the evening to put toward a project that benefits the Calhoun and Gordon County communities.
“The money the VAC receives from the ball will go toward growing their feeding program,” 2020 Ball Chair Sara Keys said. “They are going to be expanding their program to include hot dinners in addition to what they already serve. It’s going to help kids in the community who may qualify for free and reduced lunch at school but then can’t eat an evening meal at home. That really struck a chord with us.”
The VAC currently has two hunger-related programs — its community kitchen, which serves hot meals from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and its food pantry, which operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is available once every 30 days to those in Gordon County who are at or below 140 percent of Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. In 2018, the food pantry provided 2,997 families with food bags. The community kitchen served 26,615 hot meals in the same year.
“After their presentation, it was very clear to us how they would use the money we raise to benefit the people in this community directly,” Keys said. “They documented very well how the money would be used and they showed that it would be kept in this community, which is really important to us as well.”
Two other organizations, Keep Calhoun-Gordon Beautiful and the Calhoun-Gordon Council for a Literate Community, were also in the running for the partnership. Each potential beneficiary gave a seven-minute presentation before the club detailing their proposed project, goals, mission, timeline for completion, and any potential long-term benefits their project would have on the community, followed by a five-minute question and answer session.
Had they been selected, Keep Calhoun-Gordon Beautiful President Donny Robertson said his group intended to use the funding for a new four-part beautification and recycling program called Gorgeous Gordon. Key components of the program would include new, updated roadside signage related to littering, public art installations, the placement of recycling bins alongside existing trash bins downtown, and the planting of daffodil bulbs along roadways, trails, and near signs at the entrance to the county and city. Gorgeous Gordon, Robertson said, would ideally encourage citizens to take better care of the community.
“If we want people to keep this place beautiful, we need to beautify it,” Robertson said. “Adding beauty to the landscape makes people smile and take notice of it. If they feel proud of how it looks, our hope is they’ll do more to keep it looking that way.”
Joni Harbin, director of communications at the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce, presented on behalf of the Calhoun-Gordon Council for a Literate Community. Their project would have funded a third grade reading project for students at both Calhoun City and Gordon County schools.
“This specific project tied in to the Get Georgia Reading initiative and would’ve funded the purchase of Scholastic Resource Read-Alouds, which include reading materials, and the materials to accompany those packets,” Harbin said. “It would cost approximately $800 for each third grade class. There are 31 in total, and the thought was that teachers could get different packets and share them with each other every year, so that it could be recurring.”
A vote was held after the organizations presented their respective projects to the Women’s Club. According to Keys, all three projects received votes and were “within one or two votes of each other.”
“We would have felt great giving money to all of these organizations because they all had awesome projects they wanted to accomplish,” she said. “It was a really close vote. Each organization had a lot of support, and we really encourage those that weren’t selected to apply again next year.”
Over its more than 100 years of existence, the Woman’s Club has raised funds for the library renovation project, new roofing for the Calhoun Depot, the Boys and Girls Club, the Emergency Dental Program, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. Last year’s Sequoyah Ball partner, the Harris Arts Center, received $24,000. The club also provides three scholarships to local high school seniors upon their graduation.
“We always try to select a charity that is doing good things in our local community,” Keys said. “Our club is all about developing and helping our community grow, so we choose partners who share that goal.”
The 2020 Sequoyah Ball will be held on March 28 at the former Fox Ford Building at 209 Wall St. The theme will be Written in the Stars, and the evening will include dancing, live and silent auctions, dinner and fellowship. Tickets will be made available for purchase online closer to the event. Local businesses interested in sponsoring the 2020 ball should contact the Sara Keys at email@example.com.
The Calhoun Woman’s Club meets at the library on the second Thursday of every month at 11:30 a.m.