ALBANY — As recovery and rebuilding efforts continue in the wake of January storms that left many Albany families displaced from damaged homes, three area businesses are coming together to host an event to both celebrate community volunteer efforts and bolster future rebuilding projects.

The first-ever Fallen Tree Festival is planned for Saturday in the parking lot between Austin’s Fire Grill and Sunniland Roofing Supplies. Attendees can enjoy live music, good food and fun activities, all while supporting the efforts of the Albany Area Fuller Center for Housing, which is working to help area families rebuild their homes.

According to Stacey Odom-Driggers, U.S. Director of Covenant Partner Support of the Fuller Center, the festival came about through discussions she had with Jason Cobb and Mark Williamson of Sunniland Roofing Supplies, Austin’s owner Austin Newman, and 229 Yoga owner Penny Gregorio about how to recognize area volunteers and encourage more action.

“We were talking and thought about how neat it would be if we could do something to celebrate the way everyone has come together to help each other, to celebrate the spirit of volunteerism,” said Odom-Driggers. “That spirit has really shown through during what has happened.

“We want it to just be a day of fun and celebration.”

That fun, Odom-Driggers said, will begin Saturday morning when 229 Yoga will offer various classes, such as yoga, indoor cycle, PiYo, HEAT, Pilates and more, for $5.

The fun will continue at 1 p.m. when S.W.GA Cornhole hosts a cornhole tournament. Registration starts at noon. Following the tourney, starting at 5 p.m., the festival will welcome five musical acts including Stephen Harrell, Rod Holt & the Fractured Souls, 7th High, Yamadeo and Unbreakable Bloodline, all of whom will play on the Sunniland Roofing Supplies loading dock.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” Odom-Driggers said. “Once you’re done with your yoga, we’ve got the cornhole tournament and then we’ve got an incredible lineup of music.”

The festival will also feature a raffle, and from noon-2 p.m., the Lockett Station Lumberjacks and other chainsaw crews that helped clean up storm debris will be making and selling customized crosses carved from different types of wood.

The proceeds from the sale of the crosses and from the sale of Fallen Tree Festival T-shirts will go toward rebuilding projects being organized by the Albany Area Fuller Center. Additionally, the proceeds from the $20 cornhole tournament entry fee, the $5 yoga class fees, the $5 festival entry fee and a portion of the food sales at Austin’s will go toward those rebuilding projects.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the Fuller Center,” said Odom-Driggers. “We’ve got multiple projects lined up.”

Odom-Driggers added that festival organizers also hope to help the Albany Humane Society and Catnappers, which have been inundated with stray animals following the storms. She said festival patrons are being encouraged to bring animal-related donations such as food, bedding and grooming supplies.

As important as raising funds is, Odom-Driggers said the festival will also hopefully shine a light on all of the volunteer efforts that have gone on following the two brutal storms.

“The storms have brought so many different organizations together,” she said. “I love the community spirit. It’s good to see. If there’s a silver lining from the storms, that’s it. But it’s going to take some time (to rebuild). There’s so much left to do.”

Specifically, Odom-Driggers said the Albany Area Fuller Center and its partner organizations not only have several projects in the works, but that there are still unknown needs in the community that must be addressed. In order to address those needs, volunteers are needed.

“Right now, our biggest need is people,” she said. “We’ve got the supplies, but without volunteers we can’t do what we need to do.”

Patrons can inquire about volunteering at the festival, but Odom-Driggers said interested persons can also inquire through the Albany Area Fuller Center for Housing Facebook page, or by emailing her at Prospective volunteers can call her at the organization’s Americus headquarters at (229) 924-2900. In the near future, the nonprofit will also open an office in Albany.

Odom-Driggers said festival attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs but that outside coolers and food are not permitted.

She also pointed out that, in addition to the support of primary sponsors Sunniland Roofing Supplies, Austin’s and 229 Yoga, the event has also received sponsorship help from Procter & Gamble, Mauldin & Jenkins, Flint Community Bank, Princeton Place Apartments, Run for Your Lungs 5K, Bank of Terrell County, Lee & Denham Attorneys, the Daniels family and the Guthrie family.

“I’m just amazed to see all the different partnerships coming together around Albany right now,” Odom-Driggers added. “The storm has brought so many people and organizations together. It’s special to see.”

With The Albany Herald since 2013, I am the paper's Digital Editor responsible for managing our web content and social media presence. Additionally I cover Lee County and handle business news, entertainment news, general news assignments and features.

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