Amazing Race beneficiary presentation

Representatives from the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Committee went to Synovus in March, where Barry Blevins serves as market president, to notify him that his agency, Calhoun Autism Network, had been chosen as the beneficiary of Amazing Race 2020. Pictured, from left, are Jayla Ensley, North Georgia National Bank; Will Harrison, Mannington Commercial; Barry Blevins, Calhoun Autism Network and Synovus market president; Wesley Alexander, Starr-Mathews Agency; Tracy Farriba, AdventHealth Gordon and vice-chair of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce Executive Board.

The Gordon County Chamber of Commerce announced the completion of its annual scholarship cycle by awarding nine local high school seniors college scholarships through three of its signature events.

Five of the scholarships were funded by Youth Leadership and Education & Workforce Development projects, which were completed before COVID-19 struck. The Young Professionals Committee, chaired by Will Harrison, Mannington Commercial, and Vice-Chair B.J. Robinson, Georgia Farm Bureau, presents several annual events, including Amazing Race. That event was cancelled in April for public safety, but in a remarkable display of generosity, all 12 sponsors insisted the chamber retain the funds in order to move forward with program commitments including four scholarships and support for the Calhoun Autism Network.

“The chamber is fortunate to have members that support, endorse, and participate in our programs, ” said Kathy Johnson, president and CEO of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce, “and we are always grateful for that support, but when circumstances such as we have seen in recent months take place and we’re unexpectedly launched into uncertainties, that generosity is even more appreciated. These twelve sponsors would have been entirely justified in requesting refunds, but not one did. Not one.”

Mohawk Industries was the signature sponsor of Amazing Race, while Lyles Wealth Management sponsored the event T-shirt. AdventHealth Gordon, Harbin Clinic, Mannington Commercial, Starr-Mathews Agency and Synovus sponsored at the Gold Level, while First Bank of Calhoun, Momon Construction, North Georgia National Bank, Pete’s Music and Water Tower Grille were Silver sponsors. Harbin Clinic, a first-time sponsor, had also offered to supply small medical kits for all the racers’ bags while First Bank of Calhoun had committed to providing water for the racers and for each volunteer station.

Funds raised from Amazing Race support scholarships for one graduating senior from each of the four local high schools. Those students were Luke Peden, Calhoun High School; Sierra Scott, Gordon Central High School; Ben Stewart, Sonoraville High School; and Jensen Sutton, Georgia Cumberland Academy. This group of scholarship recipients was saluted in a June article.

Amazing Race also funds a charitable donation to one properly registered 501(c)3 non-profit operating in Gordon County and this year, the chosen recipient was Calhoun Autism Network. The agency was chosen from a field of eight applicants and the decision was made by an anonymous panel using a standardized rubric.

“Thank you and the committee so much for selecting Calhoun Autism Network,” said Barry Blevins after the March 2 presentation notifying him of the selection. “It is an honor to be chosen, but it is also going to be such a tremendous blessing to the families that we serve. I am so excited to share the news at our next meeting. Because of the Chamber’s generosity, special needs youth in our community will have an opportunity to learn and refine social skills, which is a particular challenge to people on the autism spectrum.”

Calhoun Autism Network (CAN) was founded by Justin Lindsey and Barry Blevins in 2016 to provide family support meetings for families with loved ones on the Autism Spectrum. As the group began to grow, Calhoun Autism Network evolved into a 501(c)(3) in 2018. The organization meets on the first Monday of every month at 6:30 at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office located on 1282 SR 53 Spur SW in Calhoun. Monthly meetings feature guest speakers that specialize on specific topics relevant to the needs of those served. These meetings are open to the public.

Justin Lindsey, Marisela Perez, Greg Walker, Barry Blevins and Martha Burton serve respectively on the Executive Board as president, vice-president, vice-chair, treasurer and secretary. Board members include Kathy Parker-Adams, John Anderson, Freda Garciacardona, Rachel Goforth and Alison Haveman.

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