If you know Waleska’s Donna Thacker Chastain, you will recognize it is a picture of her. Like most of us, she is a little older than we used to be, but she continues to be a lovely lady.
You may ask, “Why is Donna Chastain’s picture on the front of the Cameron Hall brochure? She does not live there.”
No, she does not. But she comes close.
Donna is a volunteer. She is not the kind of volunteer most of us are — an hour here or a few hours there.
She is at work at Cameron Hall for four hours five days per week. Nathan Brandon, now director of Cherokee County Senior Services and formerly administrator at Cameron Hall, calculates Donna has been doing volunteer work there for 10 years for an estimated 1,000 hours each year. That makes a grand total of 10,000 hours.
Those who know Donna would tell you that she is the epitome of a gracious and charming Southern lady. Some describe her as a perfectionist.
She does things like they should be done and gives full attention to details.
Donna has been a nurturing and caring person all of her life. She cared for her mother, her sister, and her four children, Ernie Chastain, Bill Chastain, Debbie Chastain Satterfield and Randy Chastain.
When the health of her husband, Herbert Chastain, began failing, she became his caretaker. After he entered Cameron Hall Assisted Living, Donna got as close to living there, without living there, as you can get. She got to know and love the other residents and enjoyed being with them every day.
After Herbert’s death, she said she asked herself, “What am I going to do now?” Suddenly, she had hours of time on her hands with nothing to do. She missed going to Cameron Hall and seeing the people there.
So, she called the folks at Cameron Hall and asked if she could continue going there each day as a volunteer. Naturally, the answer was, “Yes.”
Thus, Donna arrives there at 7 o’clock each weekday morning. She is in charge of the breakfast beverages.
She not only knows every resident by their name, she knows what they want to drink — coffee, milk, hot chocolate, tea or juice.
Additionally, she knows how each resident wants their coffee or tea — cream, no cream, sugar or no sugar, etc. She also knows who wants jelly for their toast and what kind of jelly is their favorite.
Later in the day, Donna serves beverages again after morning exercises.
Sometimes she plays the piano for the residents. It may be gospel music, popular music or old favorites like “The Old Gray Mare.” When someone is having a birthday she plays “Happy Birthday.”
Although she deserves praise, Donna seeks no recognition for the 10,000 hours of volunteer work she has done and she does not want to be put on the payroll.
Earlier this week Canton Rotary Club chose to honor her as someone who is exemplary of volunteerism. She was almost overwhelmed when the plaque was placed in her hands.
She, along with Canton resident Amy Turcotte and Woodstock attorney Mark Shriver, each received one of the club’s prestigious Lamar Haley Community Service Awards. At the same time, Superior Court Senior Judge Frank Mills was awarded the Jean Harris Award for his outstanding volunteer work.
Lamar Haley was a Rotarian involved in outstanding community service until his tragic death in an automobile accident. Jean Harris was the wife of the founder of Rotary International, Paul Harris.
It was now-retired state Rep. Garland Pinholster who conceived the idea of Canton Rotary Club giving community service awards to worthy people in our area. It was one of his best.
Many have been awarded the Lamar Haley Community Service Award and the Jean Harris Award during the years the awards have been given. Some have been hard working, high profile people like Judge Mills. Others have been equally hard working, low profile people like Donna Chastain.
Lamar Haley and Jean Harris would have been proud of them all. Our world is a better place because of people like Amy Turcotte, Mark Shriver, Frank Mills and Donna Chastain.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.