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Nonprofit works to raise funds for social events


By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor 

  July is one of the most important months of the year for a local nonprofit that affects hundreds of families all across this region. People First of Henry County has two upcoming fundraisers that will help generate money to support several major events and socials throughout the year, and they are still in need of donations to help reach their yearly goal.

Last year’s People First Walk-A-Thon brought in a sizable crowd to the event. This year will mark the organization’s fifth year of having the walk.                                              Special photo

  People First is an organization that works to provide social events for people with special needs and their families. Since its inception in 2002, the nonprofit has provided services to over 500 different families in the southern crescent. One of the People First’s directors, Connie Dodgen, said their objective is to supply free social events for these families and present them with activities they may not normally be able to be a part of.

  “Our goal is basically to provide social opportunities for them,” said Dodgen. “Our mission is to promote fairness and equality for people with disabilities.”

  Dodgen said People First typically offers several events to participate in each month. The organization is a frequent visitor to Atlanta Dream games at Philips Arena. They also have bowling parties, attend Henry County Players’ performances and partner with the Parks and Recreation Department to coordinate activities. Their two major events, though, draw a great deal of attention and require extensive help from volunteers.

  People First puts on a fall festival at Nash Farm and a special Easter party each spring. This year Dodgen said they gathered 15,000 eggs for Easter, and over 120 volunteers helped throughout the day.

  In order to put on these occasions each month, People First steps up its fundraising efforts in July, starting with a spaghetti dinner at the Henry County Moose Family Center. On July 14, families are invited to attend dinner starting at 5 p.m. With a cost of $5 per person, over 230 tickets have already been sold. Along with dinner, the dining hall will feature karaoke and dancing, along with a silent auction. Items for the auction include a Vera Bradley bag, a Build-A-Bear autism bear, and courtside seats to an Atlanta Dream game. The team also donated an autographed basketball from the players and team merchandise to include.

  The spaghetti dinner will also have a raffle ongoing throughout the night. Guests can purchase six raffle tickets for $5, and Dodgen said there are around 35 items available to win. One of the main raffle prizes includes a 42-inch television.

  On Saturday, July 20, the organization will hold its 5th Annual People First Walk-A-Thon. Starting at 8 a.m. at the administrative offices of the Henry County Board of Education, Atlanta Dream mascot Star will lead the parade of walkers and runners, accompanied by a police escort, through the McDonough Square.  The walk is open to anyone who wants to participate.

  Donations and funds raised for both of these events go directly towards creating and running other socials for People First throughout the year. Dodgen said the nonprofit raised $9,200 last year, and their goal for 2013 is set at $10,000. She said they continue to receive more support each year, so setting the bar higher should be an attainable mission.

  While Dodgen said she helped start People First for her daughter, Melissa, she loves seeing the benefits the organization brings to so many families. She said it’s “overwhelming to see these kids succeed and be happy.”

   One of the most popular events for People First is bingo night, which Dodgen said they host up to four times a year. Simply winning one of these games can make a dream come true.

  “To win just a $5 prize, to them that is their world,” said Dodgen. “People are so giving to these kids. The families are so appreciative.”

  Donations can be brought to any of the events, or they can be mailed to People First, P.O. Box 806, Lovejoy, Ga., 30520. For more information on People First or their upcoming activities, email



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