With dozens of people preparing grocery orders, sorting items and answering questions, the efforts at The Place of Dawson at RIC-Rack last Thursday painted a genuine picture of the phrase “helping hands.”
This past weekend, The Place of Dawson County celebrated one full year of working with the longstanding RIC-Rack thrift store, located at 829 Ga. 9 in Dawsonville. The Place was founded in Forsyth County in 1975, where it’s worked for over 40 years serving community needs.
In 2021, The Place of Forsyth County merged with RIC-Rack Thrift Shop and Food Bank to form The Place of Dawson County. Since then,
The Place has been supporting Dawson County families in need through a variety of services, ranging from the food pantry and thrift store to career and skills coaching, rental and utilities assistance and more.
The Place of Dawson County office is located at 517 Allen Street in Dawsonville. Their office is currently open on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The nonprofit’s food pantry at 829 Ga. 9 North is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and its thrift store is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. People can find more information about the nonprofit’s services at www.theplaceofdawson.org, by calling 770-288-0088 or emailing email@example.com.
Throughout the week, the Dawson-area nonprofit hosted appreciation days for clients, local government employees and school officials and offered thrift store discoun ts and raffled goodies to commemorate what they’ve been able to accomplish alongside the community this past year.
One of The Place at Dawson’s accomplishments was the transition to a client choice system where people can select toiletries and other such items needed in addition to food.
The system operates similar to chain grocery store pickup. Nonperishables are packed at a separate location, while produce, dairy and/or meat requested is placed into bags at the Dawson location. Also included for clients now is a recipe of the month.
Outreach Coordinator Amy Palmer and Food Services Manager Deborah Ross have been mindful of local internet difficulties and helped clients fill out their orders either over the phone or in person using tablets.
“It’s about taking out any barriers,” Palmer said.
If someone forgets to order groceries, they can pick up an emergency bag so they don’t leave The Place of Dawson at RIC-Rack without food, she added.
Clients may also take as many quick-pick food and other grocery items as they need. Ross estimated that the food pantry serves upwards of 40 Dawson County families.
Like its Forsyth counterpart, the nonprofit’s Dawson thrift store contains clothing, kitchenware, home decor, electronics, furniture and other items sorted across two floors or levels.
“The great thing about our thrift store is all the money stays local and is poured back into the community,” Palmer said.
Clients may receive vouchers if they need but otherwise cannot afford clothing, furniture or dishes. For example, said Palmer, school social workers have vouchers so that students and families in need are able to come over and pick out items.
Palmer said food is “just the beginning” in terms of The Place’s desire to empower clients.
“Our big thing is purpose,” she said. “We really want to help people have purpose, autonomy and confidence.”
To that end, The Place offers essential services such as free GED classes with childcare and dinner or computer office skills coaching to help people become more self-sufficient.
“Because we don’t receive state and federal funds, we can look for gaps in service,” Palmer added, explaining how they look at the community and work with other agencies. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel…if there’s another organization that can help.”
Along with the staff, volunteers play an integral role in The Place of Dawson’s thrift store and food pantry operations. Palmer appreciates the volunteers all the more with her smaller staff.
“There are people that are here every week, and we don’t take them for granted,” she said. “It’s such an honor for them to come here.”
Groups like Cumming-area Keller Williams Community Partners help with tasks like sorting donations, fulfilling the perishable parts of client orders or restocking at the food pantry. Kailah Garcia with Keller Williams explained that Thursday was their office’s RED Day, which stands for “renew, energize and donate.” The occasion serves as an international day of service for each realty office to give back to their local community.
This year, the Cumming office is donating time and resources to The Place and humane societies in both Forsyth and Dawson counties as well as to the senior center in Forsyth County.
“All of our agents go out and work on these different projects just to give back to the community that we [already] help serve at Keller Williams,” Garcia said.
Families and individuals have also joined alongside larger groups to help with The Place.
“I’m in a networking group with a guy where he said, ‘I want my kids to see the community…just to open up their world, [so] he and his kids came and helped with the food pantry,” Palmer said.
She reflected on the last year, calling it “amazing” and voicing gratitude for the community’s eager embrace of The Place of Dawson. Earlier this spring, the nonprofit received the “Best of Dawson” award for “Best Thrift Store.” Then, at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala, The Place accepted an award for “Outstanding New Member.”
At the nonprofit’s core, the organization is relational at heart and centered on building rapport with clients.
“We just love building relationships and being there [with clients] through the good times and the bad times,” Palmer said.