There are easily recognizable heroes we see around us everyday like firefighters, cops, nurses and teachers. We see them go about their daily jobs and we know the contributions they make to society.
A little less easy to recognize are the unsung heroes. Those are the people who toil in anonymity to make life better for those around them. And then there’s 2018 Unsung Hero Award winner Newton County sheriff’s deputy Cpl. Andre Cooper. He’s both.
As the founding chairman of the Boys and Girls Club of Newton County, Cooper has been spearheading the drive to bring the club to the west side of the county.
“I love Newton County. I think the Boys and Girls Club will be an additional resource to help that area,” he said, “Give kids something to do. Especially the teens. There’s not much of anything over there and I think if we had them there with their own Boys and Girls Club, where they could take ownership of it, I think they will take pride in it and stop some of the other outside things.
“I think if we had the Boys and Girls Club, we can group them in and give them the proper life skill, training, educational programs. I think the Boys and Girls Club would be a great tool because I have seen it do wonderful for other places and other counties and I think we need that here.”
Cooper said he has been working for 12 years to bring a club to Newton County. He said the biggest obstacle the project faces right now is funding.
“Right now, it’s the funding. One thing with the Boys and Girls Club is it’s funded on its own. So we’re going to have to raise money. Fundraise in order to deal with yearly budget. We’re going to have people come in and take ownership as well and help with the fundraising,” he said.
Cooper said the yearly budget for club would be around $300,000. He said the cost to build a building would be approximately $1.5 million. He said they looked for an empty building to use for the club without much success.
“We tried to look at several locations where the buildings were already existing, but it was almost more than some of the other places,” he said. “We could have possibly found some other place but it would have been outside the area that we want to serve.”
Cooper said the goal for the club is to provide a place for the area’s youth to get life skills and have some activities.
“We’d like to have sports as well, and maybe some tutoring. Basically, a place they can come in and get some training, education and life skills,” he said.
Cooper’s extracurricular community involvement doesn’t end with his work on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club. He’s also served as a member of the Newton County Recreation Authority. He’s motivated to be involved in the community.
“A lot of it is people. I love people and I look at myself coming up as being a religious person, I always considered myself as a servant, looking after others,” he said, “If you look at all the jobs I’ve had, I’ve always been of service. Just the fact of enjoying people.
“And then I work with Sheriff (Ezell) Brown, and I watch him do things in the community as well and I always just wanted to give back to the community.”
Married with a 14-year-old daughter, Cooper said his daughter inspires him to continue to work toward a Boys and Girls Club here.
“I wanted to make sure that she grew up in a place where she had the resource of a Boys and Girls Club. When I grew up I didn’t have that. So that was another inspiration to me to get a Boys and Girls Club so she would have that resource.
Before his time with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, Cooper spent 15 years with the Covington Police Department. As a lifelong cop, he said he thinks his involvement trying to help kids helps change the perception of law enforcement in the community.
“I always want to help close that gap between the community and officers,” he said, “I see things that go on in other counties and I don’t want that here in Newton County. I don’t want it anywhere else, but I don’t want it here.”
In addition to his involvement with the Boys and Girls Club and formerly with the Rec Board, Cooper serves on the Rockdale Juvenile Justice Board. He is also involved with in Kiwanis and with various projects around the county, working with elected officials on projects.
Georgia State Representative Pamela Dickerson said of Cooper. “I have known him for many years and can not think of a more deserving person who has done so much for the community and Newton County. He never says no and I wonder when he takes time to pause.”
Georgia State Senator Tonya Anderson called Cooper a servant leader, committed to the community. She offered these words to him: “You often work in the background and allow others to shine. Your humble spirit and good heart will always open doors for you. Blessings and congratulations on receiving your award.”
Congratulations to Andre Cooper, 2018 Unsung hero award winner.