Are You New to Washington? Welcome!

Published on 17 January 2024 at 22:09

When Barbara Fulbright moved to Washington in 2019, she didn’t know anyone. Her husband Frank, worked in Columbia County at the time and she was looking for ways to engage in the community and get to know people. She joined some clubs and started to make friends but felt the community could benefit from a more organized method to welcome newcomers and let them know about local resources, events, and businesses. “I spoke to Bill deGolian (former mayor of Washington) about it” she told me. DeGolian agreed there was a need, so Fulbright began volunteering her time to make people who are new to Washington, feel more welcome.

 

I asked her how she finds out who is new to Washington and she told me that she is provided a list, from city hall, of people who start new utility accounts. With the help of volunteers, someone then goes in person,  to meet with the newcomers and to give them a gift bag that contains information from local services and businesses as well as promotional merchandise if a business chooses to add that. “It’s a small town so I also sometimes hear about someone new moving to town” she said. “So and so sold their house and this is who bought it, things like that.” She said that there have been times the person isn’t home so she usually leaves the bag on the doorstep when that’s the case. Occasionally she has heard, unfortunately, the newcomer didn’t receive the bag. She said she has recently contacted businesses about providing her with updated information they would like placed in the bags. “All businesses in town are welcome to provide something so people new to town know about their business” she said.

 

There is also a private Facebook group called “New to Washington, GA” where newcomers connect to ask questions, share news, and find out information “like where can I go to get firewood delivered” Fulbright shared as an example. She said the group is kept private only to limit business owners who may or may not be from Washington, from soliciting to members of the group. Fulbright said she wants it to be a place people feel comfortable and welcome, especially being new to the community.

 

I asked her how long someone is considered a newcomer. “I guess it really depends on if they feel like a newcomer.” She said her husband is part of the group because even though they moved here in 2019, he was working out of town and didn’t have the opportunity to meet people as she has. She told me “Now he is working from home and realized he didn’t know all the people I do and wanted to become more involved in the community.” She said, it’s quite flexible and if someone feels they could use help meeting more people and accessing resources, they are welcome.

 

She told me that she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to meet new people who have recently moved to town and that she has made some good friends as a result. She does invite some long-time citizens of Washington to join group events as well because “If everybody is new, who are we going to learn from?” she explained.  She said Robert “Skeet” Willingham, has been at some events to share local history as well as city councilmen Andy Anderson, Nathaniel Cullars Sr., and Maceo Mahoney. City councilman Reverend Larry Hill told me he had been invited to an event in the past but had not been able to attend. Fulbright said she thinks it’s important people new to Washington, have an opportunity to meet city officials if they would like to.

 

The group is invited to go to various restaurants in town and Fulbright arranges with the restaurant owners ahead of time, letting them know approximately how many diners will be attending so they aren’t surprised or overwhelmed. The newcomers pay for their own meals. The city of Washington does contribute by paying for the bags that are used to deliver information and pays for food  2-3 times per year at special events. “Anyone who knows me will tell you I am cheap” she said. She told me that especially with taxpayer money, she keeps costs down by doing things such as hosting events in homes rather than venues that may charge a fee. She specified that there is no alcohol served at the events. One such event was held in December. The event was hosted in a private home and was catered by city councilman Newt Gunter (sworn in at the January meeting) and his wife, Pam who have a catering business in town. They were paid $650 for the refreshments, finger foods and desserts. The event was attended by approximately 15 people. Councilman Andy Anderson and his wife Jan also attended that event as established members of the community who act as an additional resource to newcomers.

 

Fulbright says there are guidelines in the Facebook group to steer clear of political opinions and conversations in regard to posting on the Facebook page itself. During the election season this past fall, there was an event hosted by councilman Anderson and his wife Jan at their home where candidates, Newt Gunter, David Fisher, and Bruce Bailey were also in attendance as well as city administrator, Jerry deBin. Councilman Anderson asked Fulbright to invite members of the newcomer group to the event so they could meet the candidates and the administrator, so she did.  She said she would have done the same if any other candidates would have asked, but they did not. When asked if she shares her own political opinions with the group “If I was asked about a particular candidate I would say that I have had a good experience with that person or that I felt confident in their abilities, if that’s how I felt” she said.

 

She also said she is careful about sharing contact information of the newcomers and usually asks them if it’s okay to share their phone number with someone who asks or may be a resource. If they don’t want their phone number shared, she marks it as “Private” in her phone. She said several times how important it is to her, that members of the group feel it is a safe and welcoming place to ask questions and get to know others in the community, they call home. “Hopefully Washington will be their forever home” she said.

 

If you are new to Washington and would like to join the group or know someone who is and would like to join, or if you are interested in volunteering in the welcome process, you can call or text Barbara Fulbright at (770) 656-9209.


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Comments

Ruth Sutton
3 months ago

I have been a member of this group for a year. It is very informative and a help in getting established in Washington. Many members have started new businesses and contribute to making Washington a nice place to live.

Ken Parris
3 months ago

Wait … What?!?

Jerry DeBin dipped into City of Washington bank accounts to write Barbara Fullerton checks for $650 of taxpayer money for Barbara and Frank Fullerton to host cocktail parties in private homes with their friends like City Councilman Andy Anderson and Jan Anderson and others, communicating through a private and secret Facebook page to invite a select and chosen few friends and a few select and chosen new residents of Washington.

This is so wrong and so corrupt in so many ways it’s not clear where to even start.

At a minimum it is misuse of public monies and an abuse of public trust.

Who authorized using taxpayer money to pay for private parties like this?

Or was it?

Any and all money for these private parties and ancillary activities should be paid back to the City of Washington by those involved.

…smh

Kimberly Cork
3 months ago

"She said she would have done the same if any other candidates would have asked, but they did not." Barbara Fulbright was asked by a group member to have their lunch meeting at the Market On Depot. Several members of this group are regulars at the Market (a seasonal farm to table general store now closed for the winter). As the owner, I (at that time a candidate in the D2 City Council race) was asked if I would be open to having the New To Washington group to the Market On Depot for an event. I offered to cover a portion of the cost to cater the lunch. When this opportunity was presented to Barbara she let them know she didn't agree with my platform and that there would be no association of the group with my small business in Washington. The Market On Depot was NEVER invited to participate with this group at any function. It is clearly a social club for the select. If Jerry DeBin is handing leads from the City to Barbara either he or she is hand selecting who will be invited. I joined the group when I moved to Washington two years ago. I DID NOT receive an invitation to the December event. If this social group has a charter, it appears to not include an open arms agenda to all newcomers.

Lillie Cox
3 months ago

I moved to Washington around the same time. I do the same things In my community because no one reached out to help me.

Linda Smith
3 months ago

I can say,as a newcomer to Washington, that I will be forever grateful to Barbara and Frank Fulbright for welcoming us and helping us get settled. We should all be glad for people like them in our city. They don’t have a corner on niceness… anyone can participate… black and white!