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Service organization gives away books at Blacks Mill
E-book giveaway pic 1
Altrusa member Joan Swain writes a students name in the book he chose during last weeks give away event at Blacks Mill Elementary. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

First, second and third grade students at Black's Mill Elementary School got a surprise visit last week that left them each with a brand new book and an impromptu cookie and milk break.

Local leaders from Altrusa International visited the school as part of a year-long celebration of the club's 100th year of community service.

President of the local chapter of the club, Frances Ferguson said that not many people are familiar with the world-wide service group.

"We are in several countries and the United States. We do community service projects, a lot of literacy-type projects with books and learning and with children," Ferguson said. "Initially that was the main focus of all the clubs-literacy and children.

"We have gotten into some other areas. We sponsor Jesse's House which is for wayward young women who need a place to go. We also have Sarah's House which is for unwed mothers," she said.

The group showed up with 168 books to give to the kids. Member Nancy Simms even donned an Elsa costume to hand out the "Frozen" books.

Dawson County resident and member Myrna Ruiz coordinated the giveaway.

Media Specialist Melissa Ryerse greeted the classes as they came in 30 minute increments to pick out a book, have their name written in it by an Altusan and then grab some snacks.

The second graders waited eagerly while Ferguson explained to the kids about the organization's celebration and why they were visiting the school.

The kids' excitement was visible when they realized they would get to choose a book and a cookie.
"This is the neatest thing," said second grade teacher Teresa Crawford.

Altrusa has had a presence in North Georgia for the last 11 years even though the world-wide organization was founded in 1917.

They have always been a kind of "behind-the-scenes" group according to Ferguson, but have sought visibility in recent years so that people would have a feel for who they are and what they do.

They work with other organizations like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in Dawson and surrounding counties. They have also raised over $33,000 in scholarship funds for single moms attending Lanier Technical College.

Initially established as an all-women's organization, the group now welcomes men as well.

The group will host a fashion show fundraiser on Nov. 2 in Alpharetta to supply funds for the Lanier Tech scholarship program. They meet at noon on the second Tuesday of each month at Tam's Backstage in the historic Cumming Schoolhouse.

To learn more about the organization, visit