More than 500 people gathered at Lanier Technical College to pay tribute to Georgia’s former governor and first lady, Nathan and Sandra Deal, at the Northeast Georgia History Center’s annual Taste of History fundraiser on Thursday, April 11.
“They’re inspirations,” said Glen Kyle, the history center’s executive director. “Not just to us grownups, they’re inspirations to the kids, they’re inspirations to each and every student in Hall County and in Georgia because they reflect the absolute best that Northeast Georgia and Hall County has to offer.”
Philip Wilheit, the event’s master of ceremonies, directed people’s attention toward the purpose of the fundraiser — to aid the history center’s educational mission.
A majority of the proceeds from the event went to support its reading program, which offers one-on-one free tutoring to low-income students in Hall County who need reading assistance.
Within minutes, the goal of raising $10,000 for the program reached over $50,000.
Items were donated to become auctioned off, including a Tuscan holiday package provided by Leone Hinzeman, a metal and wooden sculpture crafted by Greg Johnson, a one-year lease on a Honda vehicle courtesy of Milton Martin Honda and Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville and a painting by Paula Hoffman.
Through those items alone, people raised $17,400 for the history center.
Nathan Deal said Thursday’s fundraiser was an example of the significant offering the community is willing to make for the good of others.
“I’ve never seen an audience come forward voluntarily with so many willing contributions of significant sums of money to try to help young children with their reading skills,” he said. “That’s why Sandra devoted so much of her efforts as first lady to doing exactly that.”
The Deals were honored with a video which highlighted their decades of service to Georgia through a series of filmed interviews. Phil Hudgins, local author and journalist, created it with the help of the history center.
Once the video finished, the crowd erupted into a standing ovation. The Deals thanked the audience for their support and generosity.
“Having lived life as long as I have, I’ve seen so many people go to the next part of their lives in heaven and know that you can’t take it with you,” Sandra Deal said. “It’s what you invest in the lives of people that is left as your gift to the world.”
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville shed light on the Deals’ scholarship program — Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen. He announced that the history center will set aside a minimum of $35,000 to put toward the scholarship fund in honor of the Deals.
“Georgia has been blessed to have a pair that understood the power of love, that understood the power of hope, that understood the power of grace,” Collins said. “When that occurs, all of us can walk hand in hand. And, for this country boy, my life is better because of your example.”