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Posted: November 2, 2013 9:00 p.m.

Making visitors feel welcome

submitted photo/The Covington News/

Eighteen volunteers and Social Circle Better Hometown's manager Mike Miller kept the visitor center open for 219 days during the 2013 fiscal year.

Social Circle is known for its Southern charm, Southern homes and Southern fried chicken. It’s only fitting that visitors get a Southern welcome.

That’s exactly what 18 volunteers have done under Social Circle’s ambassador program, making sure someone is always available with a friendly, "Hi, ya’ll" at the town’s welcome center.

Social Circle Better Hometown’s manager Mike Miller recently revealed in his end-of-the-fiscal year report that volunteers kept the welcome center open for 219 days last year, averaging about 21 days per month.

The Social Circle welcome center used to be a "visitors center" before it was officially recognized by the state, which requires that a welcome center be open five days per week. That’s where the volunteers came in.

"We depend on those guys to open our welcome center every day," Miller said. "For a town our size to have a welcome center is phenomenal."

Social Circle has just one hotel, and its tourism dollars mainly revolve around the historic eatery, the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant. However, that inn draws in people by the busloads, and those people often stop by the welcome center.

"We feel like it’s important to greet people downtown, and our shop owners like it," Miller said. "We have the Blue Willow Inn, and sometimes you’ll have a bus come in an hour early for lunch. The welcome center provides a great place for 30 or 40 people to come in and use the restroom before going shopping."

While at the welcome center, visitors not only get to see brochures and advertisements of Walton County businesses, but also businesses and towns located in Georgia’s historic heartland and along the Georgia Treasures I-20 corridor, both of which include Newton County.

"We promote all of the cities from Conyers to the lake country," Miller said. "We’re trying to … from a tourist standpoint, promote the areas (where) they might stay over. We don’t have hotels, so we promote the hotels over in Covington as part of this program."

The program began in 2007 when Jamie Peterson was the Better Hometown manager, and was revitalized in 2009 when Miller was appointed to the position. Peterson helped to get volunteers back on board, and has done just that with more than a dozen blue-shirted volunteers waiting with a smile.

The volunteers include: Willie Washington, Larry Braswell, Signora Jackson, Greta Lee, Ollie James, Jan Listak, Jamie Peterson, Barbara Sams, Chick Shepherd, Martha Strickland, Mary Cross, Pam Strain, Sharon Barrow, Don and Lavona Davis, Sue Ellis, Jane Williams, Judy Deal and LeAnne Boggs.

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