0

Organizers call '10 Rockdale Cares gala a success

Patrons gather at the People Center on the Acuity Brands campus in Conyers on Saturday for the 30th annual Rockdale Cares gala. The theme for this year's event was Mexican fiesta, which was complete with Mexican food and entertainment. Organizers said the gala was the most successful ever with $66,000 raised to fund the Haven House respite facility.

Patrons gather at the People Center on the Acuity Brands campus in Conyers on Saturday for the 30th annual Rockdale Cares gala. The theme for this year's event was Mexican fiesta, which was complete with Mexican food and entertainment. Organizers said the gala was the most successful ever with $66,000 raised to fund the Haven House respite facility.

CONYERS -- Organizers of the Mexican fiesta theme gala for Rockdale Cares had plenty of reason to dance to the mariachi band as the group held its most successful fundraising event in 30 years of holding the annual gala.

The Saturday gala was held at the People Center of Acuity Brands and raised $66,000 through ticket sales, sponsorships and a silent auction. Two anonymous donors stepped forward for the nonprofit. One person pledged earlier to match half of all donations raised through the gala up to $33,000. That evening, as the total reached $28,000, another anonymous donor covered the difference to reach $33,000.

"It was the best ever," said Mary Ann Edwards, a co-chairwoman of the gala planning committee for Rockdale Cares. "We had more sponsors and more silent auction items this year. It really says a lot about the community pulling together as a family."

Nicole Szeliga was the other co-chairwoman of the gala committee that also included Dave Smith and Dave Goosman.

In a separate effort, LongHorn Steakhouse donated all proceeds from adult beverages sold during the restaurant's soft opening Saturday, which brought in about $1,000, according to Rockdale Cares Executive Director Barbara Kilpatrick.

Founded in 1976, Rockdale Cares has supported the community's developmentally challenged residents and their caregivers through an array of services, including employment training and social opportunities.

Proceeds from Saturday's gala will go toward operating the Haven House respite facility in the Light House Village. The facility is a five-bedroom house that opened last year to keep developmentally challenged clients to support their caregivers while they run errands or take some personal time.

"It is such a great service for families and caregivers who really take care of their loved ones around the clock," Edwards said. "What that little bit of relief means to them is that someone out there is looking out for me."

Haven House is open on the weekends and during public school breaks. Kilpatrick said they have also been able to keep Haven House open in June and July for summer break and November and December for the holidays as funding becomes available.

The goal is to one day operate the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which Kilpatrick said would cost $200,000 annually.

The next event planned will be the annual Country and Western Dance for Rockdale Cares clients on Aug. 21 at the Rockdale County Government Annex Building at 1400 Parker Road. The dance is combined with a legislative forum on issues affecting the developmentally-challenged community.

For more information, call 770-922-7272 or visit www.rockdalecares.org.