11-year-old’s fundraising drive generates $4,640 for ARC

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At 11, Colin Nelson is learning there are no age limits to making a difference. Opting for donations instead of birthday gifts from his friends, the Cartersville resident’s initial request grew to raise $4,640 for the Allatoona Resource Center.

“I wanted to help the community and other families who might not have as much as we do, because there was nothing that I really needed or wanted to get for my birthday,” said Colin, who turned 11 June 30. “My dad set up a fundraiser on Facebook and I wanted to raise $500, but was so excited that it was more than that. I was really excited every day that it kept going higher and higher. I couldn't believe how many people were willing to donate to my fundraiser. My dad would show me how many families could be given food or other help with that amount of money, and it was really amazing to know that money would be able to do so much good for other people. 

“It is important to help others, because they may be in need of food or help with some of their bills each month. They may not have the means to do so and it’s important for us to help others. It is important to take care of others around us and be involved in the community that we live in. Others may not be as fortunate as we are, and it is important that we help others. I hope I can give my friends and other people ideas on how they can do good and give back. I learned that there are lots of ways that even someone my age can work and make a difference.”

Located at 6503 Glade Road in Acworth, Allatoona Resource Center opened in June 2015, following a Community Development Block Grant that was awarded to Bartow County government for the facility’s construction.

For those who qualify, ARC offers a wide array of complimentary services, such as an emergency food pantry, baby products, medical assistance, lice treatment kits and the Bartow County Drug Voucher Program.

“My reaction was like wow, this is truly amazing,” said ARC Site Coordinator Nichole Varnell about Colin’s donation. “You simply don't find many 11- year-olds who would be willing to give up birthday gifts in order to give to a charitable cause. A typical 11 year old would have their birthday list ready with all kinds of [requests], such as cellphones, iPads, clothes and video games, yet this young man was considerate enough to think of others in need before himself. … It goes to show no matter how small or how young, you can make a difference.

“… This contribution was huge for the center, and it could not have come at a more perfect time. Here recently, we received notification that we were denied a grant. That particular grant was earmarked for utility assistance for families in need. Hence, we were short those funds and in the process of seeking out other funding opportunities. So the contributions that Colin raised would supplement for that unfunded grant in addition to going toward other services, such as hygiene products or food.”

Colin initially learned about ARC through his father, Patrick Nelson, who served as the center’s first site coordinator.

“The ARC is a part of Bartow County Social Services and works to provide residents in the southern part of the county with direct services as well as a wealth of outreach programs to people in the area,” said Nelson, who currently is the redevelopment coordinator for Bartow County government. “Colin has been curious about the programs and efforts of the ARC since I started and although my role transitioned into redevelopment, many of my efforts continue to be focused on the south end of the county. … Fortunately my office is still located at the ARC, so I am able to stay involved with Nichole Varnell, the current site coordinator who has been there with me since the beginning.”

Seeking to instill a “servant mentality” in both their children, Patrick and his wife, Bree, lead by example.

“My wife, Bree, is a second grade teacher at Cartersville Primary School, so her community involvement is limited to the school for the most part, but her potential impact is far greater than most of ours will ever be,” Nelson said. “She is also the full-time mom that doesn't allow anything to take precedence over our boys. She is also incredibly supportive of me and all the roles I have had the pleasure of taking on currently and in the past and allows me to devote time to those opportunities.

“I am currently serving as interim executive director for Advocates for Children until the end of July,” Nelson said. “I also have the honor of serving as chairman of the Cartersville-Bartow Community Foundation board, BLESS Coalition board and the [Bartow-Cartersville] Land Bank. I am a past chairman and still board member of Bartow Collaborative; past president and current member of the Rotary Club of Etowah; and past chairman of the Cartersville Bartow Chamber 2015.”

He continued, “This community is special, and we are so fortunate to be able to raise our family here. We are beneficiaries of the efforts of all those before us who worked tirelessly to get us to where we are, and I believe we have the same obligation to continue those efforts into the future. I am an incredibly proud dad of both of my boys [Colin and 4-year-old Hollis] and so blessed to watch them grow and hopefully continue to instill a servant mentality in them and watch them impact the world in a positive way far beyond what I could ever do.”