Community - which side do you sit on?
By Beth Volpert
It all began with this year’s Homecoming at South Gwinnett. Coach Jack Britt and I had divided loyalties for both South and Grayson. Coach Jack asked me, “Which side do we sit on?”
The answer to such a simple question became quite complicated. It reminded me of the 1988 Parkview at South game. I was a student teacher at Parkview and the principal, Charles Mason, had also been principal when I graduated from South. We stood together in the end zone for that game. No less complicated.
In Gwinnett County, the topic of divided loyalties between schools would repeat itself over and over as new schools opened and the children of graduates began to attend competing schools. Rob and Kathryn Langston’s district changed three times (South, Grayson, Archer) and they never even moved once. And to further complicate matters, Rob graduated from South and Kathryn graduated from Brookwood! Loyalties really can be complicated when community is important.
For businesses in the area, support is a two-way street. The local schools need business support in the form of donations for a variety of needs. Monetary donations always help, but when it comes to feeding an entire team, good food is always welcome. The businesses need for the local community to patronize their establishments in return.
Serving the youth of a community comes naturally to Chef Danny Gomez at the new Fratelli’s Pizza in Snellville. “I want the kids to know how good food can fuel them and still taste great,” says Danny. “I want them to taste the food I serve them before a game and then come to the restaurant with their friends and families.”
The joy of serving up good food to the future generations growing up at area schools has always been a part of the business plan for Deb and Mark Petersen of Franco’s Pizza in Grayson. “It is a pleasure to serve these kids before a game,” says Deb. “We want to make a difference to these kids and touch their lives in a positive way.” All of the food, time and labor are donated with the hopes that the community will benefit from the service and pass it on.
Gwinnett has all sorts of businesses that donate to a variety of school activities. Door prizes, auction items, spiritwear, gift cards and sponsorships of any amount are appreciated by schools from Pre-K to graduation. No amount is too small because it all adds up. From small town to corporate, each gift changes the lives of the students who receive them.
South Gwinnett Touchdown Club President, Dana Doster knows all about service to the community. Her youngest child graduated from South 5 years ago, but she remains fully committed to the football program because her community and her Alma Mater are important to her. “We make a difference to these kids and they are wonderful to work with,” says Dana. She feels like this is the mission that she has been called to provide and believes that the students are the future of the community. “Even when we play each other, there is always a healthy rivalry; healthy rivalries are a good thing for competition,” says Dana. “When I was at South, it split into Brookwood; when my kids were at South, it split into Grayson.” The Doster family has ties to many schools, but Dana considers the area one solid community.
Coach John Small agrees with his TD Club president. “We have a great community with great kids,” says Coach Small. “What helps drive all of our programs is the community around it.” Coach Small says that the school as a whole needs community support, not just athletics. “Academic programs are just as important and deserve the community’s support.” Having high profile alumni stay involved in the community draws good attention to the needs of any school, but it is the smaller community-based businesses that the schools rely on each year for support. “Any size donation of money, time or products is appreciated,” says Dana. “It all adds up.”
Just up the road in Sugar Hill another South Gwinnett Alum and former Band of Stars member, Tim Hall, now donates his time to the football program at Lanier. While it is a great excuse to watch some really good high school football, the reality is that Tim knows how important volunteers are to any school and how that ultimately affects the community. “I like to think that I have a positive impact on the kids,” says Tim. “It is important to the future of any community.”
To say that the answer to a simple question is really complicated is an understatement. Coach Britt’s story has a few twists and turns when it comes to his role in the community. You see, there was an original Grayson High School established in 1913 and closed in 1956, which gave rise to The Grayson High School Alumni Association. Evidence of how strong his ties to Grayson are can be found by touring the halls to view the memorabilia displayed in cases built by Coach Britt, an original Grayson HS Alum and a coach at South and Parkview.
Strolling into South’s Richard Snell Stadium with one of the men whose name is on Grayson’s football stadium is a thrill and the best Homecoming date a girl could have. I just wish I had a giant mum from Still Lake Nursery with both a “G & S” in corresponding pipe cleaner glitter colors for my jacket.
Knowing that Mr. Jack Britt has always held kids in the highest regard and shows that commitment by countless hours spent volunteering in Gwinnett County makes answering the question, “where do we sit?” a bit easier. We decided to split the difference and visit with both sides. After all, it was a real Homecoming for both of us-either way you look at it.