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Wild Bill's party starts large volunteer effort

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services held its annual Great Days of Service kickoff at Wild Bill's in Duluth on Wednesday.

The Great Days of Service, beginning Friday and continuing throughout the weekend, is a communitywide effort that unites nonprofit agencies and other sponsors in an effort to meet some of the many agencies' growing needs.

"We have about 150 projects that volunteers and sponsors will be working on this weekend," said Rachael Holder, the program director for Great Days of Service. "They will be doing various projects such as painting and landscaping."

Volunteers, sponsors and community members were invited to the ceremony to enjoy food and drinks and to watch as numerous sponsors and community members receive awards recognizing great community service.

"We have about 50,000 volunteers that will be involved in this year's Great Days of Service," said Janet Schwalbe, vice president of Physician and Community Alliance for the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.

Schwalbe said she was pleased with the turnout for the kickoff.

"I think this is the best turnout we've had in about three years," she said.

Schwalbe said the coalition has hosted a kickoff for about seven years, but this is the first time the tailgating-themed celebration was held at Wild Bill's.

Kelley Mautz, part-time planning and evaluation manager for the coalition, said she was also happy with the amount of donations and volunteers for the kickoff celebration.

Wild Bill's donated the space and beverage ticket for beer and wine.

The Wild Wing Cafe in Suwanee was one of the restaurants that donated their food and time for the event. The cafe donated 750 chicken wings and stayed to help replenish and serve the food.

"We try to give back to the community as much as possible," said Missy Dean, catering manager for Wild Wing Cafe. "We have a budget especially for volunteering and donations."

Awards were given out after attendees had the chance to mingle and help themselves to the free food and drinks.

One of the coalition's most prestigious awards, the Thomas James Corporate Achievement Award, was presented to J.K. Murphy, publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

"Having been here before, I knew the award was given," Murphy said. "I thought I was here to receive the media sponsorship award."

Primerica Financial Services received the Super Sponsor Award. Georgia Power, Gwinnett Magazine and Precision Planning Inc. were also among the many sponsors who received awards.

A raffle drawing was also held for a chance to win a $2,300 diamond bracelet from Tara's Fine Jewelry. Precision Planning Inc. employee Laura Hill's name was drawn as the winner and a member of the coalition staff accepted the winnings on her behalf.

All proceeds for the raffle go to help with the coalition's service projects.