Community comes together to build Fayette Counseling Center

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:48pm
By: Ben Nelms

Community comes together to build Fayette Counseling Center

Dreary and misty skies Saturday morning in Fayetteville could not alter the enthusiasm of several hundred volunteers from across metro Atlanta who poured into the parking lot at Lowe’s Home Improvement and at the construction site on Bradley Drive that will be the new home of Fayette Counseling Center.

The massive undertaking to construct a 3,800-square-foot building came by way of Square Foot Ministry and its Legacy Build 08 project.

Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan was one of the hundreds working on the construction of the interior and exterior walls at the Bradley Drive site Saturday afternoon. Horgan reviewed the process that led from the recognition of a need by Square Foot and Fayette County Commission to the work to bring the project to reality.

Commissioners in 2008 had responded to the need of the counseling center that faced state cuts and the need to find more suitable offices that could offset the $3,000 per month lease that had been impacting the center’s budget for years.

“This project started off with a bunch of us meeting to revitalize the old senior center for the counseling center. But (Square Foot board member and Project Manager) Craig Wiley said we needed to think bigger. Square Foot said we could build this thing but we needed land. At that time with the county we had some surplus pieces of property, including the old DOT barn right here. We built the new facility over at the county to move all the records stored in the DOT barn. Then we got this property for the counseling center,” Horgan explained.

“This is a perfect thing, community and private parties and government working together. We haven’t had anything like this in the county. This is really one of the first thing like this where everybody has come together. With (community needs and) with vets coming back home, it’s going to be a perfect building for that, especially with the state cutting funds. The county’s not cutting funding and the counseling center will get the property for $100 year instead of what they are paying now.”

Square Foot board member David Clark was busy in the Lowe’s parking lot earlier Saturday morning. The construction of the interior and exterior walls for the new center being prepared on the east side of the parking lot would be followed by a barn-raising at the Bradley Drive site, he said.

“The event has been fantastic. We have maybe 175 people here (at Lowe’s) and maybe 150 at the (project) site,” Clark said. “Lowe’s has been very gracious to us. This is a great community event. We have a lot of different organizations coming together. Everyone is pulling together in the same direction and that’s what we’re doing this morning. So then we’ll have the barn-raising with the whole community involved. We’ll have the exterior and interior walls done before we finish tonight. The trusses will go on next week.”

The parking lot at Lowe’s was as much festive as construction-oriented. Swinging hammers and buzzing saws were complimented by coffee from Starbuck’s, sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, a live broadcast by 92.5 FM, a wealth of cookies and other goodies and the large, absolutely divine omelets made on the spot by a mysterious culinary master posing as a nurse.

Fayette Counseling’s Clinical Coordinator Jane Fanslow was one of many center staff participating in the Saturday event. Her excitement at what she saw at Lowe’s and on Bradley Drive was in stark contrast to the drizzle and mist of the gray skies overhead.

“I’m inspired and awed by what is happening today. People coming out on a rainy and cold February morning to support mental health and substance abuse services for Fayette County, I’m just overwhelmed,” Fanslow said. “It’s been a long saga to get to this point and we’re just so excited to see a dream come true. And I know we’ve got a long way to go, still needing materials and labor.”

Greg Orangio and Boy Scout Troop 317 from Duluth were also at Lowe’s Saturday morning. They heard about the construction project at their church and combined the occasion with a trip to the Flint River. The group showed up in mass with a total of 58 making the trip across metro Atlanta.

“We came to help. All Boy Scout troops focus on service. And we’re with a Perimeter Christian Church. We found out about this from the leaders at our church. We brought 38 scouts and 20 adults,” Orangio said, explaining that some of their group was working on a conservation project along the Flint River while the majority were working on the counseling center project. “We’re just glad to help. It’s part of our mission to help folks and the teach the boys that they need to serve and to give back to the community.”

Fayette Counseling adult mental health counselor Jennifer Huddleston was one of those at the work sites Saturday. Like Fanslow, she had only thanks for the efforts of so many friends and so many strangers who came to lend a hand.

“It’s amazing to see what they are doing, the hard work going on,” Huddleston said. “A lot of people got up early this morning to come out here and help. And we appreciate it a whole lot. It just moves you to see the amount of people who are willing to take a Saturday and come out and work hard. (The counseling center is) something that may benefit them personally, or maybe not, but it’s still a selfless gift.”

Square Foot Ministry is well known in Fayette County for its ongoing efforts to make a difference in people’s lives. The counseling center project, said construction coordinator Gary Wood, is one that eclipses most of Square Foot’s former undertakings.

“This is spectacular. This is one of the larger events we’ve done. We’ve built several small houses and had a lot of projects with ramps and backporch repairs, but this a 3,800-square-foot building,” Wood explained. “We’ve got a lot of donations and a lot of people helping, from church groups and volunteer groups, off-duty firemen, you name it, we’ve got people helping here. We’ve got people here from Lawrenceville who have helped us with other Square Foot projects over the years. And we’ve got others guys that live here and from surrounding communities. They heard about the project and they just showed up, which is wonderful.”

Fayette Counseling Center, operated by the McIntosh Trail Community Service Board (CSB), serves people of all ages who suffer from mental illnesses, behavioral problems, and substance abuse. People come to the center from referrals from the Department of Family and Children’s Services, Promise Place, the court system and through walk-ins.

McIntosh Trail Community Service Board member, Fayetteville resident and National Alliance for Mental Illness local chapter President Ken Shaw said the need for the counseling center is not a small concern.

“A lot of people may not use the center but the statistics are that one in five families are dealing with somebody in their family with a mental illness or mental illness issues,” Shaw said. “People may not think they need the counseling center, but tomorrow they may need it.”

Square Foot stills needs donations, especially monetary donations, to complete the Fayette Counseling Center project. Various stages of construction and finishing work will continue through late and early summer to get the building and landscaping complete, Wood said.

“There will be an opportunity for anybody to plug and help on just about any weekend,” said Wood.

Among those participating at the Saturday event were Brooks United Methodist Church, Fayetteville First United Methodist, Boy Scout Troop 317 from Duluth, sororities from Emory University and Georgia Tech, Lowe’s, Inman Methodist, Catholic Church of St. Gabriel, Fayette County Fire & EMS, St. Matthew Catholic, Peachtree City Rotary Club, Fayette Presbyterian, Chick-fil-A, All The Trimmings, Northbrook United Methodist, 92.5 FM, McDonough Road Baptist, Starbuck’s, Environmental Institute of Georgia, Fayette Corvette Club and Fayette Counseling Center.

Fayette Counseling Center provides a life preserver for families and individuals, said Square Foot’s Maggie Clark. Fayette County has provided land on which to build this clinic and all we need is the help to do so, including help financially as well as with labor and organization, Clark said.

Donations for the project are ongoing. All donations are tax-deductible. Checks should be made payable to Square Foot Ministry-Legacy Build ‘08 and can be sent to P.O. Box 371, Fayetteville, GA 30214. For other information on how to help with this project, visit or contact Beth Barron at 678-233-4662.

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