The Hinesville Rotary Club warmed the hearts of about 30 foster children Wednesday while remembering two of their own during the newly named Dodd-Brown Christmas party.
“The Dodd-Brown Christmas party, as we now call it, is a very rewarding experience,” Rotary Club President Marcus Sack told club members Tuesday during the club’s regular weekly meeting.
Rotarians host the gift-giving event each year. The party originally was named to honor the late Bobby Brown, who was credited with helping found the club and establishing the children’s holiday party. Brown managed the commissary on Fort Stewart before he retired, according to club member Billy Jones.
Rotarians decided to add the late Gary Dodd’s name to the party title this year, as he was active in Rotary and many other civic and charitable activities, a majority of which served Liberty County’s children and youth.
Dodd died in July after an extended battle with cancer. He opened his first McDonald’s franchise in Hinesville in 1977. Dodd had McDonald’s franchises in Hinesville, Jesup, Glennville and Claxton. He also diversified into real estate and radio broadcasting. Along with his active involvement in Rotary, Dodd was an ardent supporter of the local Boy Scouts of America, a founding member of the local YMCA and the Fraser Center, a past president of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and a member of Hinesville United Methodist Church. He was named Humanitarian of the Year in 2011 by the Kirk Healing Center for the Homeless, of which he was a founding member.
“He was in Rotary for 30 years,” Dodd’s widow, Lisa Dodd, said. “He was president twice. Gary had the same passion with the Boy Scouts. He just loved Liberty County.”
Club members, several local high-school students, Lisa Dodd and her stepdaughter, Ashley Dodd, cheerfully served free McDonald’s Happy Meals to toddlers, school-age children, teens and their foster parents. As the guests ate, children’s Christmas music from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Grinch” soundtracks played. Once the meal was finished, children were handed brightly wrapped gifts to take home.
DFCS social-services supervisor Korri Williams said the Rotary Christmas party for area foster children helps elevate their spirits, because it shows people care about them.
“They have the comfort of knowing that even if they’ve been removed from their situations, Christmas still comes and it can be good,” Williams said.
Rotarian David Morris coordinated the party this year. The Liberty and Long Division of Family and Children Services referred the children to Rotary, supplying their names, ages and genders so Rotarians could provide each child with a gift. The club’s 45 Rotarians spent about $25 on each child.