I attend the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, which is nestled at the foothills of the Appalachians. Beautiful views abound, and if you take a stroll around the square on a weekend, you're likely to hear banjo music. With all the quaint shops and delicious restaurants, it's easy to see why Dahlonega is such a popular tourist destination, especially once the leaves start changing in the fall and October's Gold Rush festival is in full swing.
But, like many Appalachian towns, Dahlonega is hurting. Behind the pretty facade, the wineries and the beautiful, historic homes that surround the square, there are families who cannot afford to feed their children when school is not in session. There are parents ripped away from their children because they cannot escape the tangled web of addiction. There are people who are not fortunate enough to experience the normalcy that most of us who are fortunate to attend UNG have grown up with, and have taken for granted our whole lives.
There are people who see when we go to Walmart who we may call "the people of Walmart," and we affectionately refer to those making up the rougher element as the "Nuggets." We don't give much thought to the fact that that rowdy little girl in McDonald's who is in dire need of a haircut and some clean clothes lives with distant relatives, has one pair of shoes with a hole in them and doesn't have sheets on her bed. We don't consider that that 14-year-old girl loitering outside Dairy Queen, allowing the older boys to flirt with her and make inappropriate remarks about her doesn't have any guidance at home because her mother is incarcerated. We take for granted that the bearded, overall-wearing man selling puppies in the parking lot is out of work and doesn't have a way to feed himself. We get wrapped up in doing our homework, eating our ramen and Keurig coffee and going to parties on Friday night and we don't stop to consider the people who call themselves citizens of Lumpkin County.
We should, though, because in some cases we can help them for about what it costs to get a cup of coffee from Starbucks.
You can donate canned goods in the equivalent of what two Pumpkin Spice Lattes cost to Lumpkin Family Connection's Backpack Buddies program, and those cans of food can give a family of four two or three dinners.
For what it costs to get a pollo loco and a house margarita at Pueblo's four times, you can pay for the background check it takes to become a mentor in one of the elementary schools through Lumpkin Family Connection's mentorship program.
The time it takes to watch three episodes of Friends on Netflix could be better spent as an hour volunteering at No One Alone, Dahlonega's domestic violence shelter, or at one of Dahlonega's two human societies playing with cats and dogs that deserve a home.
The clothing your mom's been keeping in storage from when you were a baby can be donated to Dahlonega Care Center, and it can clothe a baby born to a mother who is pregnant and has found herself in less-than-ideal circumstances.
At the end of the school year, instead of throwing out the vacuum you no longer need because your froomie has a Roomba, you could donate it to the Enotah CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) office in town, because they have a need for one right now.
When you can't use those standard twin sheets you bought before you realized your dorm bed required twin XL sheets, drop them off at the CASA office so a child whose DFCS placement cannot afford a change of sheets for him or her can sleep comfortably.
The list goes on. Long before we were students here, programs were put into place to help the people of Dahlonega who have not received all the opportunities we have received throughout our lives.Though partnering with one or more of the amazing non-profit organizations in Dahlonega, we can make an impact to this town that will last long beyond our brief time here as students.
Below are links to the websites of the organizations I mentioned in this article. There are so many more ways to get involved beyond this handful.
In addition to directly getting involved with these organizations, being Greek at UNG basically guarantees that you will be supporting these organizations in a huge way. There are also service organizations like UNG Serves that you can get involved with as well.