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ETHERIDGE: Being involved within community, helping just feels good
Denise Etheridge
Denise Etheridge

Finally my husband and I can take the wheels off our gypsy wagon and set down deep roots. 

We moved around a lot when Frank was in the Air Force. Over the past decade, we made numerous moves around the state of Georgia due to my husband’s job obligations or mine.

Now we’re both determined to claim a little corner of Newton County as our enduring homestead.

We bought what we consider our retirement home about six months ago and now seem to be emulating our parents when they reached this stage of mature life. Frank and I are busy on the weekends with projects inside and outside our new home. Lowe’s and Home Depot, along with Ace Hardware, are our go-to places. I never thought I would get as excited about mulch and edging as I would potted plants and flowers.

Frank and I are also socializing more now that we’re vaccinated and pandemic restrictions are easing. We’re chatting with neighbors over the fence and have had new friends over for several informal dinners at our house. Before this week, the weather wasn’t too hot and we’ve been able to grill and eat out on our patio. Small pleasures feel like heaven in this tumultuous world.

What Frank and I are discovering is a sense of community. 

We experienced a sense of community with the Air Force, but it involved Frank’s job description and unit, not the place we were assigned. Unlike many young military spouses today who don’t always take advantage of the support network offered them, I certainly did. Frank was gone a lot so I took advantage of the military’s support network for family members. By helping other young parents with a deployed spouse, I eased my own loneliness and stress of separation.

I volunteered for clubs and activities on every base we were assigned. Frank did, too, when he wasn’t on a temporary assignment. In other words, we got involved in “the community,” no matter the geographical location.

Even after the military, Frank and I would try to get involved. Frank was active in Rotary Club and I was a member of Lions Club. The kids and I helped organize the angel tree at Christmas when I worked for the Walton Sun. Frank assisted with distributing back packs filled with school supplies to at-risk kids in Cuthbert. And the list goes on.

On Friday, Frank and I attended a kickball event held in the historic mill town of Porterdale. Local volunteers spruced up the playground and ball field at B.C. Crowell Park. A kickball event was held to launch the revitalized park and bring Porterdale’s children and their families out to play. Along with games and activities, there was music and grilled food. The whole shebang was organized by local volunteers and supported by generous donations from individual Porterdale residents and businesses. 

I think Walton County and its cities have that community spirit, too, among their residents. Monroe, Loganville and Social Circle all have events planned this summer, like concerts and festivals. When storms have come through, or people are going through a hard time financially – this Walton community has stepped up.

I’ve browsed through Tribune articles in our archive newspapers that reflect residents’ love for their community.

It really doesn’t take a lot of effort, and you get back so much in return. There are scores of civic organizations, churches or other groups one can join to help improve life for one’s neighbors.

And to be honest, helping just feels good.

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune and Newton County resident. Her email address is