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Students collect 1,000 donated items for local nonprofit
Beta club donations
TandemEDU students unload donations at The Place of Dawson. From left to right, The Place of Dawson outreach coordinator Amy Palmer, J.D. Cook, Audri Cook, Josh Cox, Cece Spriggs and Emma Cox.

One Dawsonville teen recently thought of a unique way to gather items for those in need. 

As part of a Beta Club project, ninth grader J.D. Cook teamed up with local eatery Ruby’s Recipes to collect toiletries for The Place of Dawson and Forsyth counties. 

Together, he and school peers collected 1,000 hygiene and home cleaning-related items for the nonprofit. Earlier this week, they gathered and sorted donations at their school campus before giving them to The Place. 

Beta club donations 2
TandemEDU students organize hygiene and home cleaning donations. From left to right, Cilicia Spriggs, Franklin Clark, Emory Williams, Cailyn Gooden, Hannah Lastinger, J.D. Cook, Leah Wilson, Eliza Reneman, Abigail Gaskins, Gracie Reneman, Josh Cox and Emma Cox.

J.D. attends TandemEDU, a once-weekly homeschool hybrid program where 8th to 12th-grade students can also take dual enrollment college courses online and earn a certificate or associate’s degree by the time they graduate from high school.

On Tuesdays, he goes to the Cumming campus, which hosts about 40 students from the Forsyth and Dawson areas. Beta Club meetings there are held once monthly, and J.D. 's mother, Audri Cook, is the group’s co-sponsor. 

“It’s important to me for them (her kids) to be involved in helping with this kind of thing and to see that others that do have these needs aren’t any different from the rest of us,” Audri said. 

Generally, the students handle the club’s operations, including choosing which individual and group projects to pursue. 

Earlier in the school year, J.D. met the nonprofit’s Dawson outreach coordinator, Amy Palmer. He chose to help The Place of Dawson through his individual Beta Club project, where he made an informative slideshow for the nonprofit to use in its lobby. 

He suggested helping the nonprofit for the group project, and his clubmates agreed. 

In December, when J.D. and Audri went to volunteer at The Place of Dawson, they learned that the organization’s food bank arm had switched to a client choice model. Now, people could go online and choose the specific items they needed instead of picking up boxes containing the same items as other boxes. 

One of the categories clients can choose is toiletries. People can come get non-food items on a weekly basis from The Place of Dawson’s RIC-Rack. 

“The Place needed these [toiletry] items more than they needed food [donations],” J.D. said. “Thanks to how they’re doing things now, they (clients) can get this [stuff] from there.”

“A lot of people don't realize that when someone’s on food stamps, they can't purchase anything but food,” said Amy Palmer. 

With the increases in costs for items like diapers and cleaning supplies over the past few years, it’s become more important for organizations like The Place to address those needs in Dawson County, Palmer added. 

Because the Cooks frequent Ruby’s, they knew the owner, Allen Cerinetti, and that he cared about efforts like this, Audri said.

“It’s [about] being able to help them out and them helping other people…that’s all that matters,” Cerinetti said. 

The restaurant owner is interested in keeping up this kind of donation effort after the conclusion of J.D. ‘s group project.  

Palmer elaborated that The Place’s overall goal is to help the organization’s clients become self-sustaining. 

“When people come to get food and other items, that’s just the beginning,” she said. “We’d love to hear their whole story and figure out how else we can help them.”