At age 40, Nita Bakay became a widow, leaving the stay-at-home mom to care for her three children alone. She forged ahead, returning to the workforce as a full-time math teacher at Rockdale's alternative school. Seven years later, in 1996, tragedy struck again when her son, David, then 20, died in a car accident.
Don Veal walks around the activity room at Westbury Health & Rehabilitation Center wearing a Groucho Marx pair of glasses, nose and mustache disguise. Some residents laugh and smile. Others look at him strangely. Either way, everyone gets a kick out it.
For 17 years, Jeff Blount has devoted himself to the Rockdale County community by serving as a beloved coach and teacher. Now, the 41-year-old is getting back what he has given at a time when he needs it the most. An outpouring of support is flowing to Blount, who is fighting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Diagnosed in April, Blount has experienced a rollercoaster of good days and bad days, and the love he gets from family and friends keeps him going.
Deloris and Charles Dunn agreed to foster a teenage boy with a history of gang violence for only a weekend. But at the end of the stay, the couple realized the boy's desire to want to do better, and they reconsidered their time commitment.
By Karen J. Rohr
On a Sunday morning in March, Conyers resident Jane Caruso decided to skip church and instead visit Rockdale Medical Center, where she serves as a volunteer chaplain. That decision led to a powerful bond with an upstate New York family who almost suffered the loss of a mother and child.
Sara Waites knew the prognosis was not good. Her husband suffered from congestive heart failure and doctors gave him two to three months to live. He died eight days later at the Heartland Hospice in Conyers.
On a sunny breezy April day, Winnell Smith bounces back and forth on her feet readying her racket for the next volley. When the shot comes to her, Smith returns it with a controlled backhand, adding a good amount of spin to the ball. The ball bounces off the top of her opponent's racket and out of bounds.
Whether it's learning how to be a clown, play the guitar or paint with watercolors, summer art camp opportunities for children in Rockdale and Newton counties abound.
Conyers resident Carla Sligh is a single mother raising two children while working full-time. Sometimes, it can be a strain.
The year is 1906 and settlers stream into the territory of Oklahoma. Tension between farmers and cowboys runs high as the two groups squabble over boundaries and water rights. Enter a cowboy, Curly, and a farm girl, Laurey, who can't deny their attraction to one another but are too proud to act upon it. To complicate matters, bring in a hot-tempered farm hand, Jud, who also falls for Laurey. Add a sizable helping of catchy songs and it all adds up to the pivotal Broadway musical "Oklahoma!"
Rockdale Emergency Relief director Ashley Roesler is well aware that homelessness exists in Rockdale County. According to reports she receives from the Rockdale County school system, about 90 families are currently without a permanent home. The parents and children are sometimes doubled up living with other families or residing in substandard housing.
Giving back to the community doesn't have to be hard work. In fact, it can be lots of fun, especially if you choose to join in the 17th annual Conyers Cherry Blossom Charity Croquet Tournament. Sponsored by the Heartland Woman's Club, the tournament raises several thousand dollars each year for two local charities - one in Rockdale County and the other in Newton.
In 1935, as a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal plan to relieve unemployment caused by the Great Depression, Carl Gardner worked as a surveyor and mapmaker. While on assignment one day in Monroe, N.C., Mr. Gardner viewed more than just the land through his survey telescope. Off in the distance he saw a young blonde woman wearing a big straw hat working in the yard with a push mower and sling blade.
There's an exhibit coming to Olde Town but it doesn't involve paintings, sculpture, photography or any of the other traditional arts. This exhibit is composed of light.
Conyers resident Pat Mann said she knows firsthand the pain and confusion a child feels when he or she is taken from home due to neglect or abuse. Social workers removed her from her home at age 8 because her mother, an alcoholic, would disappear for days, sometimes weeks, at a time, leaving Mann's father to care for her and her younger brother.
In 1965, when University of South Carolina officials first invited artist Boyd Saunders to establish a printmaking department, they reserved a former men's bathroom for his classroom space because it had "plenty of water." He accepted, but dealt with a year of awkward encounters in which men walked into his classroom with intentions other than to take the printmaking class.
For years, Evie Sweet-Hurd's mother kept her late son's letters from Vietnam in a box that moved from place to place with her. No one in the family opened the box. Too many memories, too much pain.
Looking to educate the kids or even yourself on wildlife and the importance of preserving habitat for animals and plants? Then you might want to consider visiting the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield where staff will offer several winter programs and activities designed to make visitors more nature-savvy.
Covington resident Gina Rutledge ends her artist statement with a quote from Edward Degas: "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
Rockdale resident Elaine Conner's collection of roughly 1,000 Santas covers almost every horizontal space in her home - shelves, curio cabinets, the fireplace, end tables, dressers. And one of the first questions that comes to mind is how did this Santa extravaganza ever get started? Conner has a very simple explanation.
As a college student, Ashley Young-Roesler took a job as a shelter advocate for a domestic violence program. The decision changed her life.
If the stress of the holidays is getting you down, then take a break from the pressures of decorating, throwing parties and running to the mall to enjoy free family fun at the Olde Town Conyers Christmas Party.
What better way to get into the holiday spirit than to listen to the joyous sounds of children singing Christmas music? The Oxford Singing Children and Oxford Youth Singers choirs, featuring 105-voices, are offering just that for two performances Dec. 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Covington as they present their annual Christmas in Covington choral event.
It may not be near cold enough to snow here in east metro Atlanta, but children can still experience the magic of a snowy winter in their imaginations by visiting the Newton County Library this month.
For those who won't be able to visit Santa's castle at the North Pole this year, there's an alternative - the Christmas House in north Rockdale County.
Michael Davenport grasps a thin red marker in his mouth, sketching the outline of a rose on a pad of a paper. He colors in the flower, moving his head from side to side rapidly, and then carefully uncaps a black marker using his prosthetic arm. He uses the black marker, also held with his teeth, to draw the stem, leaves and finally an outline around the flower.
Cecilia Gaither, along with her husband W.H. Gaither, ran a cotton plantation in Newton County in the 1800s, and, although she died over half a century ago, Cecilia could still be a presence in the home where she once lived.
Cotton Boll Quilt Guild president Debra Crane learned to sew out of necessity. As a mother of three growing children on a tight budget, she made household items like draperies and table clothes.
Whether you're pondering a backcountry hiking excursion or just looking for some outdoor alternatives for the family to enjoy together, Panola Mountain State Park offers a plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks. Consider taking advantage of the following activities at the park in early November before the big rush of the holidays begins.