July 8, 2014

Mark Millican: The fun of being civic-minded

She sat about midway up the front section of the theater, kind of by herself. Slightly overweight, she didn’t wear the nicer clothes that adorned some of the overachieving students in the room. Her semi-slouching posture certainly didn’t make it appear she was anticipating receiving one of the several college scholarships being awarded that night.

But a confluence of events was in the making.

Years ago a committee of the Rotary Club in Chatsworth had been going through dozens of scholarship applications from Murray County High School students. Sure, we looked at grade point average, but more so we had asked for volunteer work the applicant had taken part in, and without prying, how the family’s financial situation stood in regard to sending a graduating senior to their hopeful next level of education.

To be honest, being the club representative to appear at a two-hour long scholarship awards night was not a plum assignment. But we passed it around and appreciated the five or so minutes we got to address the students and explain why we gave the scholarship and, in our case, whose memory it honored.

Upon arising to speak I had no idea what would happen next. After telling a bit about the Rodney Hess scholarship — named for a middle school teacher who died of a heart attack while mentoring some students under his care on a school trip in Hawaii — I announced the recipient. Let’s call her “Brittany.”

For a moment the girl sat in stunned disbelief that her name had been announced, then she rallied by straightening herself and bounding up to the stage. Her friends seemed just as surprised.

“Way to go, Brittany!”

“All right, Britt!”

“Woo-hoo, Brittany!”

It was a stellar moment for her, and it made my day too. It made me think back to another civic club credo I’d learned years before as a charter member of the Ellijay Optimist Club: “Promise yourself: To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.”

Well, believe it or not, that original Optimist Club in Ellijay more than 20 years ago wasn’t optimistic enough to survive. I won’t go as far as to say we allowed too many pessimists to join, but will just mention it’s great to see a newer club thriving today.

Recently I attended the 25th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Gilmer County. It was great seeing some of the folks who were still involved, especially since I was there at the old Whitepath Golf Club lodge (since destroyed by fire) when the Rotary Club was officially formed — as a reporter. Although not as a member, I’ve also attended Lions Club meetings in Chatsworth and Ellijay, and Kiwanis and Rotary in Dalton. The Ruritan clubs that spring up in communities also intrigue me, and I hope to one day be involved with one of those somewhere.

What’s said about civic clubs is true in other areas of life as well: “You get out of it what you put into it.” But I would go as far as to say sometimes you get much more than you invest. Whether it’s specifically for youth, or to provide eyeglasses for disadvantaged folks, maybe to improve literacy, eradicate polio in the world, dig a well for clean water in a foreign land — or pump thousands of dollars into local ministries, outreaches, nonprofits and scholarships — the power of exponential multiplication can come to the fore when people work together and remember, “There’s no telling how much can be done if no one has to get the credit.”

Of course, the rule of “toiling” together happily and selflessly can work in any group, from churches to groups of schoolchildren and even inmates who see the light. I’ve heard it said the two best cures for depression are exercise and getting one’s mind off oneself by going out and helping somebody else. There’s no greater satisfaction than seeing people regain hope by being encouraged, blessed and given a hand up.

And where there are smiles of appreciation, there’s also great fun! (Psst, pass it on.)

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    August means children across the state are headed back to school, and for parents that means it’s time to buy new shoes and clothes for children who have outgrown their old ones. It means it’s time to buy new school supplies, and it may even mean it’s time to get a child a new computer to do their school work.

    July 30, 2014

  • "We’ve had a great ride"

    For 60 years, the Green Spot has been a part of Dalton. It survived long after most other locally owned grocery stores in the area had folded to competition from big chain grocery stores and to big box super stores.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charles Oliver: Traveler from a district in Columbia?

    Jim Gray was traveling out of Orlando International Airport when a Transportation Security Administration officer tried to stop him from boarding his plane.

    July 29, 2014

  • Letter: Children are not the enemy

    We recently read somewhere that our country is at war, not with another nation but with one another.

    July 29, 2014

  • Ensuring the joy of reading

    They’re little, they’re libraries, and best of all, they’re free.

    July 28, 2014

  • Move carefully, but soon

    No one intended for it to happen. No one had any bad motives.
    But during a period of 40 years or more, quite a few people didn’t do enough planning, didn’t have enough foresight to see what all of the development in Dalton would do.

    July 27, 2014

  • Local school systems must bear costs of federal immigration failure

    No word. No warning. Little help.
    That’s what Dalton Public Schools officials received from the federal government when it dropped 30 Central American students into local classrooms last school year.

    July 26, 2014

  • Sacrifices worth honoring

    Members of the Dalton City Council were recently approached by representatives of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart with a request to declare Dalton a Purple Heart City. Council members indicated they will approve the request.

    July 24, 2014

  • We must do better

    The numbers tell a sad tale.
    Registered voters: 36,843.
    Cards cast: 5,307.
    That means the turnout for Tuesday’s runoffs in Whitfield County was a measly 14.4 percent, according to unofficial results from the Whitfield County elections office.

    July 23, 2014

  • Letter: Control immigration

    Thousands are starting to pour into our country, and things are getting personal. Why would we end up the bad guys if we turn away children who aren’t ours? How does it make us better people to let one man steal from our children and stand by and do nothing?

    July 23, 2014