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GARDENS OF HOPE RCO STAFF – Members of the Gardens of Hope RCO staff each spoke to the audience about their role in the organization during the fundraiser on February 22. L to R: Craig George, Jada Braddock, Jacob Brannen, Amy Cruz, Jimbo Partin.Photo by Evan Riekhof
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GARDENS OF HOPE RCO STAFF – Members of the Gardens of Hope RCO staff each spoke to the audience about their role in the organization during the fundraiser on February 22. L to R: Craig George, Jada Braddock, Jacob Brannen, Amy Cruz, Jimbo Partin.Photo by Evan Riekhof

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help in its latest endeavor of revitalizing the Lyons Garden Clubhouse.

“It is unbelievable that we raised over $40,000 in one night,” Gardens of Hope RCO Executive Director Craig George remarked. “I am humbled by the generosity and love that was shown by our community. It is amazing to me that over 100 different organizations in our surrounding areas contributed to our success that night. The Gardens of Hope Fundraiser was a sold out event!”

The event featured dinner, a silent auction, live music, and speeches from the five Gardens of Hope RCO employees on their roles within the organization. Attendees were also able to get a sneak peek at the plans for the renovation of the historic Lyons Garden Clubhouse.

Gardens of Hope is an addiction recovery support center located at 145 SW Broad Street in Lyons. Though often confused with Toombs County Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery (PTR) because the two organizations previously shared a facility in Vidalia, the organization is a separate entity. RCO serves as a nonclinical resource hub to connect individuals struggling with substance use disorder and their families to necessary facilities and services.

“It is the starting point in our community for any individual that is looking to take their next steps into recovery,” Gardens of Hope Director Craig George commented. “I almost think of it as an immediate care walk-in facility. Of course, all of our services are free and grant funded, but this is a place where someone can walk in these doors and be met with someone who is in longterm recovery, who is willing to partner with them for their next steps.”

Recovery support meetings are held three times a day — morning, noon, and afternoon — throughout the day at the Gardens of Hope Clubhouse, which is located at 145 SW Broad Street in Lyons. Through these meetings, and the fellowship often shared within the building, recovery is cultivated, as an atmosphere of understanding is created.

Currently, the organization is not only working with those struggling with substance use disorder or in recovery, and those individuals’ families, but the group is also launching programs to reach both youth and the incarcerated to help connect them to valuable resources. There are two certified peer specialists for youth — both under the age of 22 — who are preparing to go into school systems and speak with at-risk teenagers in hopes of helping them avoid the dangerous path of substance use disorder. Recent Forge graduate and Gardens of Hope employee Jimbo Partin is working to launch a program in the county jail. He is helping individuals create plans to connect them with the recovery community so that upon their reintegration into society, they have the tools they need to continue to recover. George assists in the effort, as both he and Partin have spent time within the Georgia Department of Corrections and have since become forensic peer mentors.

George said that the RCO’s 5-person staff reaches a wide swath of the population, and allows the group to have someone that relates to everyone. “We all complement each other well with our certificates and our various backgrounds. It makes us a diverse bunch, and we’ve really been able to reach pretty far with that diversity,” George emphasized. “It’s really what makes this organization work.”

Recently, the organization has grown, after receiving two grants — $250,000 from the state government and a $5,000 AgSouth grant for their upcoming collaboration with the historic Lyons Garden Club.

“It has been such an amazing journey, and we have an opportunity now to move things forward into this next stage of development. As an organization, we are at a place where we have just been picked up by the state, and put into the state’s budget,” George remarked.

According to George, the organization was able begin from funding received from Leigh-Anne White & Co. and Toombs County PTR. The initial grant was for four years. In the first year of the organization’s existence, representatives from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities asked the group to apply for a $250,000 grant that would allow funding through the state’s budget. The grant was awarded, and beginning last month, Gardens of Hope RCO was funded as an autonomous organization contracted under the Department. This funding is now used for salaries, operations, and more.

Upon moving into its own space and settling into the current clubhouse, Gardens of Hope turned its focus back to the original priority: revitalizing the historic Lyons Garden Club clubhouse. “Our attention shifted years back, because ultimately, the first project we were on was the Lyons Garden Club partnership. Before there was ever anything — before there were any funds — there was an agreement between their organization and our organization that we would work hard to restore that beautiful building, and they would give us access to use it. So, we’re back at that vision and dream,” George explained.

The Lyons Garden Club moved into the structure located at 126 East Liberty Avenue in 1965, after the building had housed multiple women’s organizations whose focus was to stand for civic pride and bettering the community. The building, which hosted both a campaign for literacy in the 1930s and a radio broadcast from the basement in 1947, is currently listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and serves as an iconic representation of the history of Lyons.

As participation in the Garden Club has dwindled over the past few years, so has upkeep on the clubhouse, necessitating several repairs and renovations. Previously, Gardens of Hope held a work day where members focused on some of the most pertinent issues of the clubhouse, and the group plans to continue its work in the coming days.

In exchange for work on the Clubhouse, the Garden Club has agreed to come alongside Gardens of Hope in its recovery efforts. The downstairs area of the Lyons Garden Club facility will be used for offices, and the upstairs area will be a space for meetings and seminars. In addition to this, the group will help cultivate hope among those struggling with substance use disorder through a therapy garden. Recently, AgSouth presented Gardens of Hope with a $5,000 grant for this garden, which has been named the CommUNITY Garden. There, the Garden Club and Gardens of Hope will grow vegetables to donate to local food banks.

“I think it is really an awesome opportunity for us to partner with the Lyons Garden Club and to bring growth to their organization as well, while also tapping into our area’s agricultural roots,” George emphasized.

With the funding raised from the event, Gardens of Hope RCO will be able to continue its work on the Garden Clubhouse, as offices, meeting spaces, and outdoor activity areas are prepared for use. There is not a set completion date on the project, but the organization administrators hope that with the public’s support, they may continue to work toward cultivating hope within the area.

For more information on Gardens of Hope RCO, call (912) 454-1953, or (912) 388-2206.

LYONS GARDEN CLUBHOUSE RENOVATION – At the fundraiser on February 22, Gardens of Hope shared the floorplan of the proposed renovation of the historic Lyons Garden Clubhouse. The organization, in partnership with the Lyons Garden Club, is currently selling sponsorships for rooms within the facility.

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