Last week the Voluntary Action Center celebrated its 50th year in Calhoun and Gordon County and ten years of serving hot food in its Community Kitchen.
On Saturday, the community showed its thanks by making the VAC's annual Murder Mystery fundraiser an unprecedented success.
Dozens of locals gathered downtown to watch as community leaders took the stage as members of the fictional Buckshot family, a wacky group of relatives divided by the promise of lottery winnings, in "Murder at the Redneck Reunion." Even more took part in the auction, which is held in tandem with the show each year.
Stacy Long, executive director of the VAC, said the event raised $23,500 to go toward the VAC's Hunger and Emergency Assistance programs, the most ever after expenses since the fundraiser's inception.
"I just want to thank every person who came out on Saturday or participated in the auction or who has volunteered time with us over the years," Long said. "The VAC really is a circle of community, and without the people who support us we couldn't succeed. The volunteers who give time, the donors who give money, the schools that do food drives, those are the things that keep us going. We're a community organization that supports and is supported by the community."
Almost every dollar spent at the VAC comes from Gordon County support. Long said 96 percent of its budget each year comes from local funding, with only four percent coming from federal or outside donations.
Asked how she thinks the VAC has continued to be a success and receive community support for so long, Long credited the culture of Gordon County and the people who live within it.
"When people see the work you do and the impact it has, they're willing to support it," Long said. "We've been very lucky that people continue to see the work we do and continue to want to support it, but that's really who the people in Gordon County are. We look out for each other in hard times, and we look out for the people who look out for others."
Looking into the future, Long said her first goal is to raise more funds to keep the VAC afloat well into the future. The global pandemic prevented the organization from hosting its in-person events and fundraisers last year, thereby limiting the amount of funds the VAC could raise and the budget for the group this year.
"The pandemic made things hard for everyone, but we are hoping that we'll meet budget goals," Long said. "Our goal through the end of this year is to raise $50,000 more in honor of our 50th year."
Anyone hoping to donate can do so in person at the VAC, located at 343 S. Wall St., online at www.voluntaryactioncenter.org or by mail.