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Retiring head of Gainesville agency that helps disabled find work honored in ceremony
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Rehabilitation Industries of Northeast Georgia director Paula Phillips is given a proclamation honoring her service from state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, Thursday morning during a breakfast celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Phillips is retiring following 37 years of service with RING. - photo by Scott Rogers

Paula Phillips said she wouldn’t miss the railroad crossing that threatened to impede her daily commute, but leaving Rehabilitation Industries of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville has been an otherwise bittersweet experience.

“I’ll miss all those individuals that I had an opportunity to serve,” she said during a Thursday morning open house at the private, nonprofit organization, which helps people with disabilities find work.

“Those companies and organizations I got to go into, I saw wonderful work projects going on. I got to imagine how could an individual we serve fit into those companies … Those were challenging but fun times.”

Rehabilitation Industries of Northeast Georgia

What: A private, nonprofit organization that specializes in assisting individuals with disabilities who are searching for work

Where: 924 Athens St., Gainesville

Contact: 770-535-7464 or rehabindustries.org

For her 37 years’ service, the retiring director of the agency at 924 Athens St. was honored by employees and board members in a ceremony observing National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, presented Phillips with a legislative resolution recognizing her career.

“She has diligently and conscientiously devoted countless hours of her time, her talents, her energy toward the betterment of her community,” he read from the document.

“Paula, thank you for everything you have done for so many people,” Miller said to Phillips after reading the resolution. “We will be forever in your debt, and we love you.”

The nearly 50-year-old organization serves people with physical, psychological, developmental and intellectual disabilities. It provides a variety of services including supported employment, job placement, evaluation, adjustment, internships and interview training.

Chris Wunn, chairman of RING’s board, presented to Phillips a plaque with the inscription “What is done in love is done well.”

“We wanted to offer this to you, to say thank you and wish you a wonderful and happy retirement,” he said.

Accepting the plaque, Phillips said, “When I think and look back, it’s been a wonderful journey. I couldn’t have done it without this community because the community always supported RING in what we did.”

New director Joy Duncan told the 50 people gathered at the ceremony that she is looking ahead to her future plans with RING.

“We’re in an assessment phase,” she said. “What are we not doing that well and what do we do well? … Can we do something different?”

And once that process is finished, “we’re going to be setting goals,” Duncan said. “And we’re going to involve the community.”

Also, at the ceremony, RING recognized Caterpillar in Athens as its employer of the year and presented its Good Neighbor Award to Carroll Daniel Construction, which is across the road at 921 Athens St.

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