Local News

October 4, 2013

Werner Braun: 60-plus years of caring at Friendship House

Tonight is Friendship House’s annual spaghetti supper, but if you don’t have tickets yet, don’t miss out because you assume it’s too late. Just stop by Dalton’s First United Methodist Church and join hundreds of others who celebrate this annual tradition.

Friendship House’s fall fundraiser is always a big success, and it’s become a part of the, pardon the pun, fabric of our Dalton community.

My guess is that most people who live in Dalton and Whitfield County have heard of this remarkable child care organization for years, but I’m not sure how many know about its rich history and the strong connections Friendship House has long had with carpet, our primary industry, and with the many families who populate our great town.

I recently had the chance to chat with Mary Thelma Norris, who has served as the director of Friendship House since 1985, and she filled me in on some of the highlights of the center’s 60-plus years.

Did you know?

• Friendship House was started by women from area churches in the 1950s to provide half-day kindergarten programming for children who lived in what was then called the “Happy Top” area because “providing a good start for those children was the right thing to do.”

• From this effort a program sprang up to provide adult education for the moms of the children served, and Whitfield County’s adult education program actually evolved from that effort.

• First Presbyterian Church of Dalton leased Friendship House’s “first home” to the organization for $1 per year, and churchwomen from area churches provided food, snacks and clothes.

• When urban renewal in the late 1960s and early 1970s caused many Friendship House families to relocate, Friendship House board members sought a new location, eventually relocating on Fifth Avenue.

• Full-time child care began in 1981.

• A capital campaign, led by carpet industry leaders, was initiated in late 1991, and by 1993 had resulted in a yield of $1.1 million, all but $100,000 of it coming from inside Whitfield County. The vast majority of the money was raised by pillars of the carpet and rug-related industries and through corporate contributions.

• Also in 1993, the center moved into its current state-of-the-art facility.

• More than 3,000 children have been served through its programs since moving into the new facility 20 years ago.

• Currently, 91 children, ages six weeks to five years, are cared for in the program.

• Parents of children who are served at Friendship House have to be full-time students or full-time employees in order to take advantages of child care services.

• All parents pay something for their children to attend, based on their ability to pay.

These are just a few of the program’s “facts,” but when talking to Mary Thelma you pick up on more than just the “particulars.” You pick up on many of the “warm and fuzzies.”

Besides telling me that she works with “the best people in the world,” all 23 of them — staff and teachers alike — Mary Thelma praises our community as having provided “incredible support” of Friendship House since its inception way back when.

“So many people in the industry and our community have supported us through giving of their time, their talents and their money,” she told me.

“Over the decades, hundreds, if not thousands, of people in this community have helped us, either by coming by to read to the children, contributing clothes, serving as volunteers on our board, chaperoning field trips, providing services like nursing, dental care and ‘creative movement,’ and helping with fundraisers,” she added.

Fundraisers, like tonight’s spaghetti supper and May’s Derby Day event, have evolved over time, she said. In the beginning, the women who started Friendship House made vats of their own special spaghetti sauce, stored it in one volunteer’s freezer, and combined it all into one big melting pot of sauce that volunteers “dished out” generously during the annual fundraising dinner.

Today, the spaghetti sauce is prepared in one location, but scores of volunteers still bake cookies and brownies to accompany each dinner served, and volunteers still serve up both in-house plates and to go orders by the thousands.

And this year, in addition to the two major fundraisers, Friendship House will be partnering with the Creative Arts Guild to host a Festival of Trees around Christmastime, in which fully decorated trees will be displayed at the Guild and will be for sale.

“I feel so lucky to be in a community like Dalton, that cares so much about other people,” Mary Thelma said.

“We believe that we provide incredible services for our children and their families, and we plan to continue to do so for years to come. Friendship House is a place for all of us to be proud of.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.

Text Only
Local News
  • Man charged for using fraudulent Social Security card

    A man is being held in the Whitfield County Jail on multiple charges for using a fraudulent Social Security card with someone else’s Social Security number to land a job at a rug manufacturer in Dalton and for providing false information to receive workers’ compensation benefits, according to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation’s Enforcement Division.

    April 23, 2014

  • Standoff 1 mlh.jpg Police: Four-hour standoff ends with peaceful surrender

    A man who was armed with at least one firearm and believed to be under the influence of alcohol surrendered to police Tuesday night after barricading himself for four hours inside a carpet mill in downtown Dalton, officials said.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray deputy bit by drug dog while taking selfie

    A Murray County Sheriff’s Office deputy is recovering after one of the department’s drug dogs bit him in the face on Monday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Local wrestler ‘made everybody smile’

    Rash Renegade got his wrestling nickname after a motorcycle wreck several years ago left him with a bad case of road burn.

    April 23, 2014

  • Pinwheels in murray '14 1 mlh.jpg Awareness can prevent child abuse

    Three hundred forty-six pinwheels dotted the Murray County Courthouse lawn on Tuesday, representing 346 reported cases of child abuse in the county last year.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray library, regional system still far apart

    Murray County officials say they will announce soon if they will follow through with their plan to take the Chatsworth-Murray Library out of the Northwest Georgia Regional Library System.

    April 22, 2014

  • Fire believed to have started outside home

    Investigators are still working to learn what sparked a fire that nearly destroyed a house at 602 Top St. in Dalton on Monday.

    April 22, 2014

  • Murray deputy bit by drug dog while taking selfie

    A Murray County Sheriff’s Office deputy is recovering after one of the department’s drug dogs bit him in the face on Monday.

    April 22, 2014

  • gov deal in dalton1.jpg State faces skilled worker gap

    Clay Cooper says HON is producing as many retirees as the company is office chairs.

    April 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • house fire on tops st1.jpg House fire under investigation

    Investigators are trying to determine what caused a house fire on Top Street in Dalton Monday that at least temporarily put a family of four out of their home.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo