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Auction raises money for Dorchester

Event also introduces new jewelry store

POSTED: October 29, 2010 2:10 p.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Liberty Jewelry owner Clay Sikes talks with Mary LeCounte Baggs at the auction.

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When Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, approached area developer and businessman Clay Sikes about holding a silent auction fundraiser to benefit Dorchester Academy, Sikes agreed without hesitation.
“Dorchester Academy is a tremendously worthy cause,” Sikes said.
Dorchester Academy was named by the Georgia Trust to its 2010 list of 10 Places in Peril and was named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites by the National Trust in 2009. The academy opened its museum in 2004 with a grant from Georgia Southern University and has plans to also serve as a community center once restoration is complete. Dorchester was the only historic school in Georgia to receive a $50,000 preservation grant from Lowe’s Companies, Inc. this past August.
“We’re slowly improving,” said Dorchester Academy museum director Deborah Robinson.
The academy needs its foundation shored up and repairs made to flooring damaged from rainwater infiltration, in addition to a host of other repairs.
Dorchester was founded in 1871 to educate freed slaves and continued to provide schooling for African-American children in Liberty County for generations. Dorchester closed as a school in 1941, but continued operating as a community center. The academy hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 where the civil rights leader met with other activists to plan the Freedom March to Birmingham, Ala.
Sikes said his father, a former Liberty County sheriff, provided King and other civil rights activists protection when they gathered at the academy in the early 1960s.
“He afforded them protection at a time when it wasn’t popular to do that,” Sikes said.
Auction organizers had hoped to raise $2,000 on Tuesday evening during the “Taste of Liberty” event at Liberty Jewelers and gifts, the business Sikes co-owns with Noel Osteen, however the event raised only $300. Sikes and Osteen bought the store when Friedman’s Jewelers closed. They remodeled the store in January 2009. Liberty Jewelers is on Gen. Screven, near Beall’s department store. Sikes said he and Osteen plan to host more fundraisers for community causes there in the future.
Proceeds from Tuesday’s silent auction will help refurbish Dorchester Academy, Sikes said.
About 125 invitations were sent to area business people and Dorchester Academy supporters, Liberty Jewelers manager Chuck Mincey said. Wine and light hors d’oeuvres were offered as auction invitees browsed the jewelry counters, home décor, French perfumes and other gifts.
Lifelong educator and former Dorchester Academy student Mary LeCounte Baggs, now 100, graced the event by attending and received a corsage.
“She is an amazing lady,” Williams said.
Baggs helped organize the first black voter registration drive in Liberty County during the tumultuous years of the civil rights movement. She served as president of the Dorchester Improvement Association and still sits on the association board. Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin is current president of the Dorchester Improvement Association.
For more information, call Dorchester Academy at 884-2347 or go to www.dorchesteracademy.com.
 

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