A visit from Dawsonville's "mafia" may have had a bit to do with the additional funds that were collected during Family Connection's Celebrity Waiter breakfast on Friday at Longhorn Steakhouse.
"Our tips doubled from what they've ever been," said Dawson County Family Connection Director Nancy Stites, referring to Don Pepperini [Pepper Pettit] and Scotty "the Bull" Setti [Scott Yochum] who "shook down" diners for donations to the "family" -- the Family Connection.
Stites said an estimated 250 people were at the breakfast. Another 80 or so purchased to-go plates.
"We were really pleased with the turnout this year. It was definitely the best fundraiser we've had," she said.
Now in its seventh year, the breakfast raised nearly $4,500 with additional funds still anticipated to flow in support of addressing challenges children and families are facing in the community.
Jeanne Tompkins took her granddaughters to the breakfast.
"This is my first time being here and it's really a lot of fun. I had no idea there were this many people up at this hour of the morning," she joked.
As a former mentor in the school system, Tompkins said she saw firsthand families impacted by Family Connection's reach in the community.
"Family Connection does so much work behind the scenes that not everybody realizes," she said. "I know how hard they work and how much it's needed. There are so many children in this community that need help."
Family Connection Board Member Tim Singleton said while the breakfast is a fundraiser, the larger goal is to bring the community together.
"The key is to bring everything together, including the families of Dawson County to the event," Singleton said. "It's somewhat of a fundraiser, but the main event is to get everybody together in a different environment and show the strength our community can be by working together. It's all about supporting that."
The "celebrity" wait staff also included county commissioners Julie Hughes Nix and Mike Berg, Sheriff Billy Carlisle, Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan, City Councilwoman Angie Smith and representatives from each social, civic and service organization in the county.
With a buffet-style breakfast of biscuits, eggs, bacon and sausage, the waiters juggled the tasks of taking and delivering drink orders, clearing plates and resetting the tables.
Part of a statewide initiative of community collaboratives, Family Connection brings community partners together to develop, implement and evaluate plans that address the serious challenges facing local children and families.
The group is currently working on initiatives to address underage drinking and help adults identify and prevent child sexual abuse in the county.
"Family Connection is also working to focus on zero to 5-year-olds, trying to figure out what's needed in the community to get them on a grade level they're supposed to be on and just continuously raising education levels in Dawson County," said Tiffany Davis, Family Connection's Be the Key coordinator.
"We also are about to do the back to school drive at Walmart. Then we'll work with the school system to make sure the kids that need backpacks and school supplies get those."
For more information about Family Connection, call (706) 265-1981.