Augusta Commissioner Donnie Smith is giving away a fourth of his commission salary, providing a boost to five charities that do most of their work in Augusta-Richmond County.
Smith, a lieutenant with the Georgia State Patrol, said he made the donations a campaign promise when he ran for the District 7 commission seat last year.
“I got elected to serve the community; I didn’t get elected to make $10,000,” Smith said of the part-time salary for a first-year commissioner. “Part of the purpose is to make you realize, first, that we don’t make a lot of money.”
Smith said he lives in a 52-year-old house in Montclair and isn’t a rich man. The only requirement he placed on the charities he selected is that they provide a non-profit tax return and do most of their work in Richmond County.
But Smith said each of the charities he selected for a $500 donation touched a special place in his heart:
• That’s What Friends Are For, a no-kill animal rescue service owned by Lorna Barrett. “I’m an animal lover,” said Smith, who has rescued and spayed or neutered 12 cats, in addition to his three pet cats Queenie, Bo and Bad Baby. “I’m just a bleeding heart when it comes to dogs and cats.”
• Boys and Girls Club of Augusta, which provides after-school programs for about 1,800 at-risk, impoverished youth ages 6-18. “The success rate is very high,” Smith said, while 89 percent of contributions go directly to programs, not administrative charges.
• University Hospital Breast Center, a very special place for Smith because he lost his sister three years ago to breast cancer. His surviving sister Suzanne was diagnosed two years later and has been battling the disease for 18 months, Smith said.
• The Ronald McDonald House, where “families are using their facility that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be close to their children. Certainly a child would want to be close to their mother or father” while obtaining medical treatment in Augusta, Smith said.
• Harmony Baptist Church, which runs a downtown after-school outreach program for at-risk youth. “It’s a boots-on-the-ground kind of thing that gives them a safe place, a safe environment, access to computers,” Smith said. “It’s led by a terrific preacher (Woodrow Miller) who is dedicated to the cause of saving lives.”