Local News

February 28, 2014

Roman Open reaches $1 million milestone

Without financial support from the Roman Open Charities, Sue Lowery wouldn’t have been able to feed more than 3,300 needy people last year.

“The main thing we do is help families — low-income families and no-income families — with food,” said Lowery, who heads the nonprofit Helping Hands Food Pantry on Highway 411 North in Eton. “I started in 2005 just taking stuff out of my pantry and my family’s pantry and having yard sales and bake sales to raise money.”

The organization gave away more than 48,500 pounds of food last year alone, she said. This year, which includes being closed two weeks due to snow, 95 families have already been helped. And approximately 2,600 pounds of food has been distributed, she said.

Lowery relies on grants and donations from organizations like the Roman Open, which holds a golf tournament fundraiser each May at the Dalton Golf and Country Club to benefit organizations in Whitfield and Murray counties. The tournament will be May 12 this year.

“It means a lot to me, and the community,” Lowery said of the money from the Roman Open Charities. “We’re just a small agency and we struggle to raise money. It’s a blessing to us.”

In 2013, the organization received $4,000 from the Roman Open. The food pantry also received $1,000 a few years ago.

Since 1999, the Roman Open has distributed more than $1 million to local organizations. Members of the charity’s board of directors were gearing up to try to reach that $1 million goal this year when they realized it had already been met.

“We were so focused on raising money, we didn’t realize it,” Vann Brown, president of the board, said. “We get so engaged in raising money. We have twice as many requests (for donations) as we can give each year.”

Last year the charity raised a record $106,000. The year before, the amount was approximately $90,000.

Roman Open donated to more than 30 agencies last year and gave 10 scholarships to students at Dalton State College and Georgia Northwestern Technical College.

Board members check each request for donations personally.

“The money is going to be spent wisely,” Brown said. “We make sure it goes to needy causes.”

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes in the area, Mountain View Boys Home and Cherokee Estate, have received Roman Open funds for the last several years, said director Nikita Jordan. The organization houses children who have been taken away from their parents through no fault of their own.

“We’ve used it for various things,” Jordan said. “Roman Open has been wonderful to provide those things.”

Last year the funds were used to pay for outdoor things like playground equipment, basketball goals and bicycles as well as picnic tables and lawn furniture for the boys home, Jordan said.

“The boys home is the newest so it doesn’t have some of the things some of our other homes have,” she said. “We’re a nonprofit. With the way the economy has been, we’ve not gotten as much. ... We have been blessed with the Roman Open being able to continue to help us. It has been wonderful.”

Jordan said she is glad the Roman Open can help the number of organizations they do each year. She didn’t realize just how many benefited from the golf tournament until she attended last year’s ceremony where the funds were distributed.

Brown says handing out the money is the fun part for him.

Participation in the golf tournament has sold out for the last three years. That’s 252 golfers raising money for charity.

This year the tournament will have a Championship Flight of 10 teams in addition to five regular flights. Cost for the Championship Flight, which will tee off at 8 a.m., is $1,000 per team. Cost for the regular flights is $800.

This year’s fundraising goal is $110,000.

Several businesses, some local and some that do business locally, support the charity, Brown said. The two biggest sponsors are the country club and Alliant Health Systems, he said.

It takes a lot of volunteers to run the tournament. If someone is interested in helping, Brown said he will find a place for them.

Tom Rennie, a board member and past president of the Roman Open, said the tournament started in 1975 to help fund the Catholic Church’s building project. Until 1984, the tournament benefited the church. But after that, it became about local charities.

“There’s no use stopping a good thing when you’re raising money for the community,” Brown said.

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