People who live in Brooklet say the community is more than just a place where people live. It's a place where folks, whether related or not, come together as a family when there is a need.
Ronnie Schmidt was familiar to most people around town, as he worked at the CITGO station for 10 years. On Feb. 16, he was driving near the intersection of Highway 80 and Cody Lane when his car flipped after he swerved to miss several stopped cars. He suffered severe injuries and passed away March 8.
Ronnie Schmidt left behind his wife Judy and two children, including a son who was paralyzed from the waist down in a hunting accident seven years ago.
So, Friday, the Brooklet family came together to try to help his family.
Members of the Brooklet United Methodist Church, where the Schmidt family have been members for years, took the lead and organized a fundraiser. They hoped to raise some money to help the family get back on its feet.
Allan Lamb came up with the idea to sell chicken dinners to raise money for the Schmidts. Deb Anderson, a good friend of Judy Schmidt's, and David Jaynes decided to jump in to help, along with church members Bonnie Rushing and Liz Bland.
According to Anderson, once news of the fundraiser spread, people throughout Bulloch County offered their help in putting the chicken fundraiser together.
She said what amazed her was "the number of people who would call her over the phone to prayerfully ask how they could help."
Most people, she said, had no connection to the church or the Schmidts.
In the end, the group sold about 1,850 dinners to customers as far away as Savannah, and every part of Bulloch County. The demand for the dinners was so great that organizers eventually had to tell people they simply couldn't handle cooking any more chicken.
The 1,850 dinners will translate into a gift of about $9,000 to Judy Schmidt, her daughter Samantha and son Christopher.
Paul Anderson, one of the cooks (and husband of organizer Deb Anderson) said, "We had set a goal of 500 dinners, and then when orders started rolling in, we thought, maybe we can sell 1,000."
Shaking his head in wonder, he looked up and smiled. "I'm real happy with how this has all worked out."
The volunteers came from far and wide. Early Friday morning, it seemed as if every cooker or smoker in Brooklet was at the church. By 10 am, the smoke pouring from the cookers resembled a miniature city with smokestacks belching fumes.
Some had very personal reasons for helping out. The Murkison family, who attend Pittman Park United Methodist Church in Statesboro, were involved in a horrible accident last year. The response of the Bulloch County community to their situation was so overwhelming they said they felt compelled to help the Schmidt family.
Many people came to pick up their orders, including Chris Batayias, a close friend of Ronnie Schmidt. His wife Jamie works at Memorial Hospital in Savannah and she sold 40 dinners to her fellow workers. Batayias said his family had gotten together with the Schmidts many times to race go-carts on the track in his yard.
According to Deb Anderson, all of the food either was donated to the fundraiser or paid for with cash donations. Even more amazing, she said, was that all of the desserts for dinners were made by the members of the Brooklet United Methodist Church.
After the last dinner was picked up, and the cleanup was done, the organizers said the success of the event would, hopefully, set an example so when there is a need somewhere else people will step up.
Anderson knows the people of Brooklet will do their part.