Dalton was one of the hardest hit communities in our nation during the most recent recession. It suffered a massive loss of jobs that lead to many leaving the community to seek work elsewhere. Those who stayed behind found strength in one another. With a lack of community resources, local industries donated funds to rebuild ball fields, “Soul Food” was opened to all at the First Baptist Church on Wednesdays, local businesses applied for grants and provided free lunch programs for students during summer vacation, and people turned to one another for encouragement. That wonderful spirit has not left this community: a few young strangers passing through the small town were able to experience this generosity as a series of anonymous donors assisted them through an unexpected crisis.
This is an excerpt from The Daily Citizen News, Dalton, GA, reprinted with permission
(Editor’s note: Five female students from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, made an unexpected stop in Dalton while returning from spring break in Florida. Here, they found a welcoming city and extremely kind people.)
We spent our spring break in Naples, Fla., visiting family and enjoying the sun. We left Naples on Thursday, March 9, around 6 p.m. to make the 18-hour trek back to Ohio. Bad luck had been accumulating towards the end of our trip and the series of unfortunate events continued as we drove home. Around 3:30 a.m., we found ourselves in severe thunderstorms while trying to maneuver our way through Atlanta. We drove through a huge puddle which caused us to lose control. The check engine light started blinking, and our car started shaking.
We pulled off the road, but decided the problem was only bad gas, so we kept driving. With our spirits even lower than before, we were over-exhausted, scared and ready to be home. We decided to cut our losses and try to find a repair shop to get the car checked out. By about 7 we found ourselves at an auto repair shop in a city called Dalton in Georgia. The men, Doug and Donnie, at Tate’s Automotive were so helpful and so nice. We immediately knew we were in good hands.
After breaking the news to us that we would be stuck in Dalton for about four hours without a car, they pointed us to a small cafÃ© where we went to breakfast. When it was time to get our bills, our waitress was empty handed. She said that a man sitting near us heard about our bad luck and car troubles and had paid for our breakfast. With thankful hearts and boosted moods we went on to look at some cute local shops where, at each shop, we were asked what brought us to Dalton, wished luck with the rest of our drive, and pointed to another local business we should be sure to check out.
After extremely welcoming customer service, a kindhearted waitress and man at breakfast, Southern hospitality and genuine love radiating from every shop we stepped into, and some of the best pizza we’ve ever eaten at Cherokee, we returned to Tate’s to pick up our car.
This is when they kindly let us down with the news that it was about a $575 repair.
Our moods quickly dropped, but bounced back up even quicker when the service man told us that the man who we had spoken with earlier that morning had covered the cost of the repairs. With tears in our eyes, we hugged the man and thanked him, wondering why in the world we deserved to be treated so lovingly by complete strangers. It’s crazy how a day that started so terribly could quickly become one of the most heartwarming days I’ve experienced in my life thus far. Yes, our 18-hour car ride turned into 28 hours, but we left with our hearts full and a fully functioning vehicle! I am so thankful for good friends, good attitudes and genuinely good people with even better hearts.
To the people of Dalton, Ga.: Thank you for your love. Thank you for welcoming us to your home for the day. We fell in love with it with only a sneak peek of the heart and community of your city. We will be sure to pay it forward and bring some Southern hospitality up north next time we can.
With thankful hearts,
Kaylea Bowers, Quinn Kantner, Justine Liddle, Kiera Malone and Emily Nolting