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Civitan celebrates 5 year anniversary
The Dawsonville Civitan Club celebrates its five year anniversary with the installment of a wheelchair accessible picnic table at Veterans Memorial Park on Oct. 18. Pictured from left are: Carissa Martin, Nina Martin, District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett, Ann Raines, Diane Hansard, District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix and Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Community members gathered at Veterans Memorial Park Friday afternoon to celebrate the Dawsonville Civitan Club’s fifth anniversary.

To celebrate its first five years in Dawsonville, the local civic club donated a new wheelchair-accessible picnic table Oct. 18, the first one of its kind in Dawson County.

“It’s the type that doesn’t have the legs in the way so the wheelchairs can actually pull up and sit at the table without having to go sideways,” Civitan President Diane Hansard said.

The Dawson County Parks and Recreation Department moved about 36 feet of the fence surrounding the playground 12 feet back so that the wheelchair accessible picnic table is within the playground area.

It’s the fifth piece of equipment Civitan has donated to Veterans Memorial Park in the past year.

In August 2018, the club purchased $15,000 worth of inclusive playground equipment for the park which included swings and “cozy cocoon” where children with autism and sensory processing disorders can remove themselves from situations of sensory overload while still being accessible to their parents or caretakers.

The Dawsonville Civitan Club is a chapter of Civitan International, a worldwide community service organization with a mission to serve individual and community needs with an emphasis on helping people with developmental disabilities.

Hansard said it’s been the club’s goal to make Veterans Memorial Park the flagship park in Dawson County for inclusivity for special needs children and adults.

According to Hansard, the response to the new playground from the community has been positive.

“Just from what I’ve heard and from hearing from the teachers at the schools, the kids are beginning to come out, the families are beginning to come out to use this equipment because they know it’s here,” Hansard said.

Reflecting on the last five years, Hansard estimates the club has raised around $40,000 that has been completely put back into the community through the club’s projects.

Beyond the ongoing playground project at Veterans Memorial Park, the club sponsors Christmas stockings and gifts for the residents of North Georgia Assisted Living, provides pizzas for the spring and fall Special Olympics, sends children to Camp Big Heart in Warner Robins, celebrates Pastors Appreciation Day and sponsors the annual Miss Sparkle pageant for the county’s exceptional girls.

“We’ve done so much good, I think, for our community and I think if we can get some more members this will be a club that can do so much for developmentally challenged children and adults,” said Civitan member and Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason.

Looking towards the future of the club, Hansard would like Civitan to strengthen its partnerships with North Georgia Assisted Living and Dawson County Schools through smaller ongoing projects and the establishment of a Junior Civitan Club at Dawson County High School.

“We’re looking to grow and build and get more members,” Hansard said. “The more members we’ve got, the more money we can make, the more we can sell stuff, the more projects we can do and I think we do a lot considering it’s just the four of us.”

Civitan is currently selling raffle tickets for the 12 Days of Guns, an event they have done for the past four years in partnership with Appalachian Armory. For $20, ticket holders receive 12 raffle tickets that will be entered to win a gun during the first 12 days of December.  They can be purchased at Appalachian Armory or from a Civitan member.