Doris Farmer’s thumbs are getting tired, worn and raw as she wraps black and blue ribbons in careful loops to form a bow that will soon be attached to a tree, mailbox, post or door. The designer at Joyce Merck Florist has spent almost every waking moment over the past week making bows in memory of Nicolas Blane Dixon, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was shot and killed while pursuing burglary suspects on foot in Gainesville late Sunday night, July 7.
“I would estimate and not be afraid to bet that we’ve done at least 500,” Farmer said as she stood behind a workstation surrounded by bows. “It’s took the whole village to do it. There are five of us, and it’s not just making the bows. Some are making the flowers so others can make the bows.”
After news of Dixon’s death began to spread, the Hall County community began to offer its support to the fallen deputy’s family in any way it could. Dixon left behind his wife, Stephanie, and his two sons: a 9-year-old and a 3-month-old.
Farmer said she was a little surprised at the outpouring of support the florist alone saw in the days after Dixon was killed.
“You get complacent,” Farmer said. “People don’t even know their neighbors next door anymore. And for this, strangers just know the family is going through some hard times and we’ve never had that here that any of us can really remember.”
As people continued to order bows by phone — including Billy Ray Cyrus’ manager, who ordered a bow from the country singer to be sent to Free Chapel where Dixon’s funeral was held — and by walking into the shop on Broad Street, Farmer said she couldn’t help but be overwhelmed.
“I don’t think you can even think about what the family’s going through and not feel at least some of the pain,” Farmer said, as she took a moment to stop making a bow to wipe a tear from behind her glasses. “I’ve known Blane since he was a young man, and known his mom and dad for a number of years.”
Even those that don’t know the family offered help in some way. Caty Scales, owner of Twisted Salon in Gainesville said they, just like many other salons and barbers in town, serve a lot of those in law enforcement.
“They look out for us, they look out for our shop,” Scales said. “A bunch of them are what we consider family … We may not be blood related, but that’s my family.”
One of her best friend’s husbands works with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, and as soon as they heard about Dixon’s death, they knew they had to do something.
So, they came up with the idea of ordering 400 silicone bracelets in honor of Dixon. They’re simply asking for a donation, with 100% or proceeds going to the Dixon family, to receive a bracelet.
They posted about what they were doing on Facebook Tuesday and then let social media do what it does best.
“As soon as we did it, it was like wildfire,” Scales said.
The bracelets aren’t available until July 20, but Scales has already had to order another batch because of all the people already pledging to donate for a bracelet. She’s received everything from $3 to $100 for just a couple bracelets.
Scales is thankful she owns a business and has the opportunity to do something like this, which may have more of an impact than if she was doing it on her own as an individual.
“I have more of a platform than some people do,” Scales said. “People come and help us out, so we give back to them. It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
The guys over at The Inked Pig in midtown Gainesville felt the same way. They donated 10% of their proceeds from lunch Wednesday, July 10, to the Dixon family. Co-owner Andrew Elliott said they had people coming into the restaurant, calling in to-go orders and even ordering for their whole company.
“We had a line out the door all through lunch, so we had a really good turnout,” Elliott said.
He, too, said owning a business gives him more of an opportunity to help the community, especially during tough times. That's part of the reason he and Jimmy Ellis decided to open the barbecue restaurant in the first place.
“We want to be part of the community,” Elliott said. “We don’t just want to be that restaurant that you go to and get barbecue. We want to be that restaurant you go to because it's a part of the community. And that’s one good thing about being the business owners. We can make that decision in a split second. We don’t have to go through any corporate chain or anything like that. We can make a decision on the fly and make it happen.”
When Elliott poked his head in the kitchen Tuesday, July 9, to ask Ellis if he wanted to donate a portion of the next day’s sales to the Dixon family, he said there was no hesitation in Ellis’ response. The next day, he also found out there was no hesitation in the community’s response.
“I was pretty impressed by Gainesville and the support that has gone out,” Elliott said. “It just shows that there is a good community foundation here and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
Hayley Woodard doesn’t make barbecue, but she makes natural bath and beauty products as the owner of Autumnwood. Once she saw the news of Dixon’s death, she wanted to do her part in supporting the family. She went to Chestatee High School, so she knows some of the deputies who work for Hall County.
Once she saw and heard stories from friends about Dixon’s family, she came up with the idea of making “thin blue line” soap.
“Even if it’s just a little contribution to the family, I just felt like every little bit counted,” Woodard said.
The soap is black, made with activated charcoal which Woodard said is “good for detoxing your skin and helping with acne blemishes.” There’s a blue line in the middle of the soap in support of law enforcement.
Woodard uses natural oils, including lavender and tea tree essential oils. She adds aloe and vitamin E, too. Each bar is $5, and 50% of sales will go to the Dixon family.
“I’ve had 49 sell so far,” Woodard said. “I’ve actually had people from out of state order some because their families are police officers. So, I think it’s something that means a lot to people not only in Georgia, but it means a lot to people in general.”
Farmer and the rest of those at Joyce Merck Florist have seen that it means a lot to people in general firsthand. With $5 from every $10 bow purchased, they’ve been able to raise quite a bit of money for the Dixon family.
And they’re not done yet.
Farmer said she hopes they’re able to make it to 600 bows because each one means more help for an entire family in need.
“We’ll make as long as people want,” Farmer said. “If you can help, you’re not just helping one … it’s going to go down through the whole family.”