2018-07-11 / Front Page


Leadership Burke delivers sweet dreams to local families

Siblings Darius and Adrienne Walker take a moment to test their mother’s new bed, donated and delivered to them through the partnership of Leadership Burke and ReStart Augusta. Siblings Darius and Adrienne Walker take a moment to test their mother’s new bed, donated and delivered to them through the partnership of Leadership Burke and ReStart Augusta. Her bedroom light bulb may have burned out, but six-year-old Adrienne’s megawatt smile lights up the whole apartment. While waiting for her mother and brother’s beds to be installed, the rising firstgrader got a surprise herself. She fluffs the newly placed bedding and pretends to wear the pink-striped, bow-shaped pillow on her head, before grabbing the soft teddy bear and holding him close to her chin. “I just love everything,” she squeals. “I love it all!” Her grin stretches even wider as she and Darius bounce on their mama’s new bed and finally, on her brother’s big bed in his own room.

Their mother, Angel Cooper, sits quietly on the couch as her children prance in and out of the door, following a group of strangers as they bring in bed parts and power tools.

“They just don’t know how much this means to us,” Cooper says, smiling for the umpteenth time as Adrienne runs past shouting, “Look Mama!” Within the hour, there are no strangers among them – just a group of community leaders wanting to make a difference and three families thankful for the help.

It all started during the Chamber’s 2017 Leadership Burke class.

“On that first day, I could tell this was going to be a fun group,” class graduate Bo Blanchard says. “As we were completing our last day together a few months later, it seemed obvious we needed to get back together to give back to the community that has given so much to us.”

And that’s exactly what the group did. They teamed up with ReStart Augusta, who provided the materials and expertise, and added in local donations in excess of $1,600 to build eight beds to be distributed right here in Burke County. Early Saturday morning, the group loaded up the bed pieces, mattresses, sheets and comforters and made its way to the receiving families.

Cooper’s neighbor, O’Neil Johnson, says the two new beds at his parents’ home were life altering. “God gives me the strength to do this,” he says about caring for his mother, who suffers severe back problems, as well as his step-father, who is paralyzed from the waist down. “But this, this right here is a blessing in itself.” As he pushes aside a small bookcase, making room for his step-father’s bed, he points toward a chair whose springs have long since given out. “He won’t have to sleep on that anymore. No sir. This is a nice bed right here,” he says, lying down on the soft mattress for a few moments. “Yeah, this is real nice.”

The group’s third and final stop was at the home of Crystal Dixon, where they assembled the four remaining beds before calling it a day. Th eir efforts, though, are just beginning, as the group will head back to ReStart in the coming weeks to actually build beds themselves. Eight to be exact. One for each Burke County resident who’s received a one thus far. The group expressed hope in the possibility of creating a local unit and expressed gratitude for the individuals and businesses who donated to a cause that has become so near to their hearts.

“As we solicited donations at the Chamber banquet, it was obvious the churches and businesses of Burke County were going to make it happen through their financial support,” Blanchard says. “It’s a humbling experience to see so many people come together as one, to give for the service of others, to love one another. What ReStart Augusta is doing, helping those less fortunate get a good night’s sleep, should help us all sleep a little better, too.”

Ashley Roberts, who serves as the executive director of the Chamber, said this is the first Leadership Burke class in 20 years to choose to do a service project. “I am so proud of the class members and their enthusiasm and love for community and the fact that they willingly chose to do something to give back to our community.” On

Tuesday afternoon,

Cooper was well rested and happy. “We appreciate everything so much,” she said, “and I’m sleeping a lot better.”


The group behind this effort included Bo Blanchard, Audrey Lewis, Elizabeth Billips, Jan Blackburn, Teresa Cobb, Blake Gay, Margaret Newton, Jaynie Scott, Radeta Smith, Kathryn Sturkie and Paul Vaught. For more information about Leadership Burke, contact the Chamber at 706.554.5451. For volunteer information or to learn more about their mission, contact ReStart Augusta at 706.469.2878 or visit their website restartaugusta.org.

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