CONYERS -- A lot of things people take for granted came to fruition because of volunteers like Don Patterson.
When he was recognized by Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden as the co-recipient of the Charles P. Cole Citizen Involvement Award, the honor was for a body of work that spans 45 years.
A member of the Rockdale County Jaycees Club in 1965, Patterson and other Jaycee members helped put address numbers on houses in the county -- the first time that was ever done.
Then there was his work building the county's recreation department. Patterson was named to the Recreation Commission in 1967 and could honestly say he has seen parks built in Rockdale County, beginning with a shovel full of dirt for Pine Log Park and reaching all the way across the decades to the completion of the new tennis center on Parker Road.
"We ran the whole program off the beer tax," said Patterson of the early days of the recreation department. "We built Pine Log Park on the beer tax, and it didn't cost taxpayers a penny."
Patterson moved to Rockdale County in 1959 from Newton County and worked at the General Motors Doraville Assembly Plant for 34 years.
He explained that he fell into volunteering when he joined the Jaycees and then he "just got swept up in it."
"I wanted to be involved with my kids," he said. "Also, my wife pushed me along for a lot of it. She was as much involved in it as I was."
Patterson, 73, spent 35 years on the Rockdale County Recreation Commission, an accomplishment of which he is particularly proud. During that time, he helped start girls softball, youth basketball and youth football programs in the county.
Along with serving as the Recreation Commission chairman, he has donated his time as president of the Rockdale County High School Bulldog football booster and baseball dugout clubs, as president of the PTA at C.J. Hicks Elementary School and supporting the local Boy Scouts.
Patterson and his late wife Jane had a son and daughter. After they grew up and left home, Patterson did not stop his involvement in the community.
He has served on almost every citizen board in the county including: the Conyers-Rockdale Planning Commission; Sheriff's Merit Board; Keep Conyers Rockdale Beautiful (for 30 years); the county employee Redress Board; almost every SPLOST referendum committee ever formed in Rockdale County; and the city-county consolidation committee in the early 1990s.
The Charles P. Cole Award also has some significant meaning to Patterson because he knew the man after whom the award is named. Patterson said Charlie Cole was typically in the audience during many meetings of boards, commissions and authorities that he served on, and he often provided Patterson with feedback.
"I would get home from a planning commission meeting and, almost always, Charlie would call me and grade me," he said. "He said I did OK on one rezoning and gave me an A, but then I did something he didn't like and gave me an F. It was a lot of fun."
Parkinson's disease has slowed Patterson down today. He said he has trimmed down his volunteer work to a couple of efforts, including serving on the board of directors for Rockdale Cares, the non-profit organization that serves developmentally-challenged residents.
"I got a meeting tonight," he said.