COVINGTON, Ga. — An evening at Lockwood Mansion exceeded all expectations for the county’s trail supporters.
The iconic Covington estate was the site of a fundraiser event Saturday for Newton Trails Inc., a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization whose mission is to lead expansion and improvement efforts of multi-use recreational trails across the county.
As the first true fundraiser event hosted by the organization, Newton Trails board member John Keck said the night went better than anyone could’ve imagined.
“The night was a tremendous success,” he said. “Our expectations were to host around 150-200 patrons, but with months of intense work and developing interest in the trails and this event, 450 people ended up attending … It far and away exceeded our expectations.”
Fundraiser attendees were able to stroll the mansion’s grounds, participate in a silent auction, as well as a live auction, and enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres and a selection of wine, beer and other beverages.
Lockwood Mansion, also known as Worthington Manor, is most recognized for its use in the hit television series “The Vampire Diaries,” among other film productions. The famed estate is currently owned by Ben and Ralph Miller.
Items up for auction included a wine tasting for 10 at Lockwood Mansion; a six-night stay in Carrabelle, Florida; a cocktail party for 20 at Dobbs Farm; a one-hour helicopter ride over Atlanta, Lake Oconee or Chateau Elan; Georgia Bulldogs football national championship memorabilia, and much more.
As result of the auction, several thousands of dollars were raised to go directly toward Newton Trails’ priority projects including rebuilding and opening the Cricket Frog Trail’s Alcovy River bridge and improving parking and other amenities along the Cricket Frog Trail as well as connecting the Cricket Frog to other Newton County trails.
Duane Ford, who is chairman of the Newton Trails Inc. Board of Directors, said the organization was “going big” in 2022 after exceeding fundraiser goals in 2020 and 2021. Since the new year began, Newton Trails has worked toward raising $612,000 to complete the renovation of the Alcovy River bridge.
“This year we’re going big — really big — and we’re asking our donors for support for all kinds of things,” Ford said during Saturday night’s event. “We need money to help us raise additional money for the Alcovy River bridge. We need money for benches, we need money for parking, we need money for trash cans for goodness sake. Someday we need to build restrooms, or at least build port-a-potties out there along the trail. So, we have a lot of things that we need that we’re asking our donors to support, and I hope that tonight and in the future you will give generously and often.
“Newton Trails is a nonprofit,” he added. “Every dime that we receive goes into our work. We don’t have any paid employees. We don’t have any office space or anything. The money we raise gets spent on trails — building trails, maintaining trails, expanding trails, promoting trails.”
Following the event, Ford told The News he was appreciative of the community’s support, which allowed Newton Trails to exceed the fundraising goal it had for the evening.
“Newton Trails deeply appreciates the incredible support it received from so many individuals, businesses, and organizations before and during its fundraiser Saturday evening,” Ford said. “Our numerous event sponsors, donors and supporters enabled us to exceed our fund-raising goal for the evening. And, based on the comments we have received, everyone had a wonderful time.”
The long-term vision includes extending the trail system to Porterdale, Newborn, Almon and other areas within the county, which would make a connection to the trail system in Rockdale County, and eventually the greater Atlanta trail network, Ford said. Saturday’s event was quite the start in reaching that mark, Keck said.
“We’re just overwhelmed by the outpouring of support,” Keck said. “People came up to me all night saying this was one of the best fundraisers they had ever been to in Covington, and they were planning to continue supporting Newton Trails moving forward.”