The joys of having a hometown -- and how to help it flourish

One of my favorite stories goes back to my experience as I entered the fourth grade in Richmond, Va. My father was a professional soldier. From 1935 to 1944, my family had lived in New York, Panama, Virginia, Kansas, Hawaii, California, Minnesota, Ohio and North Carolina. By the summer of 1944, it was time to move again – this time to Virginia.

On that first day of school, at Westhampton Elementary School, the school bully stuck his finger in my chest, and said in a
menacing way, “Buddy, where are you from?”

 

I TOLD HIM that I didn’t know. He said, “Well, Buddy, you gotta be from somewhere.” Since my father’s hometown was Zanesville, Ohio, I replied, “I guess I am from Zanesville.” The bully shot back, “Where is that?” I said, “Ohio.” He then said, “Does that mean you are a Yankee?” Not understanding the implications of my answer, I replied, “I guess so.”

In the meantime, another boy had knelt down directly behind me. The bully then said, “This is the way we treat Yankees.” He pushed me hard. I tumbled over the kneeling boy and landed on my head. Soon I began to think that it would be awfully nice to have a real hometown – preferably one that was in the South.

Twenty-two years ago, my wife, Connor, and I moved to Augusta. At last, I have a hometown, and happily it is in the South. The chances of landing on my head anytime in the future have seriously diminished. Hallelujah!

Augusta always had been Connor’s hometown. Her father, Jimmie Dyess, and her stepfather, Charlie Goodrich, were Augustans who served in the military, so moving around the country was part of her life, starting in November 1940, when Jimmie Dyess was called to active duty in the Marines.

Connor’s father and stepfather – as well as her grandfather, Maurice Dyess, and her uncle, Dr. Hervey Cleckley – had made significant contributions to Augusta and beyond. Hence, Connor has roots deep in the Augusta soil.

On March 15, 1990, we left very chilly northern Virginia and arrived to a wonderfully warm Augusta. The trees and flowers were in full bloom. The welcome we received from friends and neighbors was so generous that, within a few days, we knew that we had made the right decision – to make Augusta our permanent home.

 

SINCE MOVING here, one of my great pleasures has been my involvement in community affairs. Serving on the boards of a number of nonprofit organizations has given me the opportunity to work closely with many civic-minded citizens.

In addition, I have thought a great deal about the future of Augusta. Here are two of my conclusions:

• As the CSRA faces an uncertain future, we just cannot rely on the federal, state or local governments to solve many of our problems. Nonprofit organizations generally operate more efficiently, take actions more quickly and stay closer to the real needs of our citizens than governmental administrations.

• If Augusta is to thrive in the future, more people need to spend more of their time and discretionary income supporting good causes. Although I have encountered many generous people, some folks refuse to dig deep into their pockets to provide strong financial support to worthy enterprises. Hopefully, they will soon start making a sincere and sustained effort to help.

So what organizations should you support with your time, your creativity and your financial support? There are many that deserve assistance, but I would like to suggest three and give you a specific way to assist in each case:

• Make a donation to the Augusta Warrior Project. Either call (706) 434-1707 or go to its website – www.augustawarriorproject.org – and click on “monthly donation.” The PayPal system is a cool way to donate painlessly.

• Join the Augusta Museum of History and keep your membership up to date year to year.
Please call the museum at (706) 722-8454.

• Purchase a seat or two for the upcoming Nov. 2 gala Boy Scout dinner. To be in the presence of honored guest, Medal of Honor recipient Barney Barnum, will be a special treat. Call soon – (706) 733-5277.

 

HERE’S A GENERAL guideline for financial contributions to worthy civic nonprofit organizations. After making your contribution to your church or temple, commit 1 percent of your gross income to worthy and well-managed civic institutions. If you can exceed 1 percent, as many do, that would be grand and deeply appreciated.

 

(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – serves on the boards of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Augusta Warrior Project and the Augusta Museum of History. His email address is genpsmith@aol.com. His web site is genpsmith.com.)

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