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DIG festival benefits GraceWay

Dr. Jose Tongol and his band will provide special music at Albany ARC’s Mexi-Cali Party on Thursday. The event benefits a local preschool and will offer food and prizes for attendees.

Dr. Jose Tongol and his band will provide special music at Albany ARC’s Mexi-Cali Party on Thursday. The event benefits a local preschool and will offer food and prizes for attendees.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Since they, like most other nonprofits, rely on the kindness of the community for operating funds, the folks at GraceWay Recovery Residence have no choice but to reach out to the community for support with annual fundraisers.

At least when GraceWay throws a fundraiser, though, it's unique and entertaining.

Months after bringing Allman Brothers/Rolling Stones musician Chuck Leavell to the Good Life City for a sold-out benefit concert, GraceWay is preparing for the Oct. 22-23 DIG the Art Fall Family Art Festival.

The two-night benefit will be held at the DIG -- Destinations in Gardening -- Garden Center at 847 U.S. Highway 82 West at Oakland Plantation.

"When we plan an event, we keep in mind that we want to give back to the community that has always supported us," GraceWay Development Director Liz Dixon said. "By holding diverse events, we have an opportunity to introduce new groups to GraceWay.

"We want as far-reaching a segment of the community as possible to know about our program because addiction is a non-discriminatory disease."

The DIG the Art festival will start Friday with an invitation-only "DIG the Beat" event at the garden center. Oncologist Dr. Jose Tongol and his band the Albany Yoyos will perform their unique brand of classic rock and pop for invited guests, who will have an opportunity to take part in a silent art auction featuring the works of local artists.

The gathering, sponsored by SunTrust Bank of South Georgia, will help raise funds for indigent women seeking admittance to the faith-based GraceWay recovery program.

"We like to share our talents to help out deserving organizations like GraceWay," Tongol said of his and his bandmates' musical performance. "My wife and I know Ms. Dixon and the work that GraceWay does to help women with addictions, and we've tried to help them over the years.

"I enjoy playing music, so this should be a fun night for everyone."

SunTrust CEO/President Mike Marz said supporting GraceWay's is in line with the bank's current ad campaign "Solid Gives Back."

"SunTrust is not just about banking, it's about community," Marz said. "We push our employees, the members of our team, to get involved. GraceWay struck a nerve with our team, and we've been involved with them since their inception.

"GraceWay is a first-class operation, and they always sponsor events that not only allow the community to help in the fight against substance abuse but also to be entertained. We're proud to be a part of this."

Saturday's Fall Family Art Festival kicks off at 9 a.m. and will run until 5:30 p.m. Local artists, who will "blend" their stations into the DIG scenery, will provide demonstrations of their art for visitors to enjoy.

Among the artists scheduled to attend are pottery creator Kirby Gregory, painter Donna Mosteller, glass blower Robert Koch and blacksmith/ironworkers Lynwood and Mitch Belcher.

"I have a dozen pieces on display at DIG right now, and when they started planning the festival they called me for ideas," Mosteller, a retired art teacher who paints in watercolor and acrylic, said. "I'm not sure what the final plans are, but I think it's an event everyone will enjoy. I'm really excited about meeting the other artists."

Food booths manned by the Bread House and the Knights of Columbus will be available, and music will be provided by local bluegrass bands. Parents can have their children's photos taken on pony rides or a tractor display, and a number of games -- including a soccer kick station -- will be available. There will also be a petting zoo.

Saturday's events are free and open to the public.

"I've known Liz (Dixon) forever, and our church has been a big supporter of GraceWay," said Tina Fowler, who with her husband Greg and their partner Richard Spencer opened DIG almost three years ago. "Having an event like the fall festival in support of GraceWay just seemed like a natural fit.

"We'd like to invite the entire community to come out and be a part of this. It should be a fun day."

Hors d'oeuvres and bakery goods at Friday's and Saturday's events will be provided by chef Terry Dehus and the Bread House, which employs GraceWay residents.

"One of the reasons they're involved in the festival is to promote the Bread House's 'Gifts of Mercy' program," Dixon said. "We're asking people to hold dinner parties, luncheons, office parties, Sunday school gatherings and allow Terry and her crew to provide the food. The cost to the individual holding the party is just double the cost of the groceries, with half going to GraceWay.

"We'll take a few minutes at the party to tell guests about GraceWay and ask them to join our 'lifesavers.' We're signing up people who will commit themselves to saving one woman one day a month for a year. The daily cost for each woman at GraceWay is $75, so by giving $900 a year ($75 per month) they can truly save someone's life."

For information on the DIG the Art Fall Family Art Festival or on the GraceWay Recovery Residence, contact Dixon at (229) 446-4550 or online at Information about DIG is available by calling (229) 889-0440.

A love offering will be taken up during the festival.

"Nonprofits have been severely affected by this down economy, but it's more important than ever for people to give what they can," Dixon said. "Addiction does not take a vacation."