The Dalton, Georgia, Baha’i community once was much larger and quite active in the greater society.
The director of a new community center in the recession-devastated “Carpet Capital of the World” remembers.
When Baha’is recently took a barrel of donated canned food items to the center, he spoke of attending events they had sponsored.
Would they be willing to jump back in, he wondered, by holding a celebration for the city’s children at the new center?
“We were a bit overwhelmed but took it as a challenge and called in some help,” says Joan McGovern, a Baha’i in Dalton.
“By ourselves we could never have done this.”
But Baha’is in the Atlanta, Georgia, area to the south and Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the north remember, too.
They had served alongside Dalton believers on many an initiative back when the city was struggling to integrate a large number of Hispanic immigrants.
And when called upon to assist with this celebration, they turned out in numbers — including the operators of a Chattanooga-based arcade on wheels.
The “Celebrating Our Community Children” party drew not only young people from Dalton and Whitfield County.
Hundreds of Tennessee and Georgia teens who were in town to participate in a regional Youth Basketball of America tournament flocked to it as well.
“A great time was had by all,” says McGovern, “and we received front-page coverage by the Dalton Daily Citizen.”
Now the Dalton Baha’i community — only six strong and beset with health and transportation challenges — is feeling a new energy, she says.
The believers recognize that the children’s event has opened the doors to further spiritual conversation with people.
“We are holding regular Feasts and will be celebrating Ridvan,” the 12-day observance of Baha’u'llah’s proclamation of His station as Manifestation of God for this day.
And believers, she says, are “enthusiastic to try other projects.”
“We have sent a letter to Dalton State College offering them an opportunity to view Education Under Fire,” a documentary about the denial of higher education to Baha’is in Iran, and are waiting for a response.
“We are drafting out a proclamation for Race Unity Day” — an observance each June initiated by the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is — “and will plan to celebrate it at the community center,” adds McGovern.
What’s more, “We plan to donate books to the community center’s library.”
Dalton Baha’is also will be meeting in May with other area Baha’i communities and a visiting representative of a senior Baha’i institution to make further plans.
With a little nudge “we are alive and active again,” sums up McGovern.