Editor’s note: This version of the story corrects several errors.
Three years ago, the Chambers family moved to Woodstock from Statesboro, leaving their close friends behind.
Then, Allie Chambers was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It happened at a really horrible time,” her husband, Jonathan Chambers, said. “We had no support system. We felt really alone and scared.”
But it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Allie Chambers beat cancer then, but in May she posted on Facebook that the cancer had returned. This time, though, it was stage four, which requires immediate and intense medical care.
That post prompted business owners and residents across Cherokee County to donate time and money to assist with her $75,000 treatment. The highlight of the efforts was an all-day street festival last week, with the vendors donating their proceeds to the family.
Jonathan Chambers works for the Cherokee Office of Economic Development as the community manager of entrepreneurship. He has been able to meet some local business owners through his job but was pleasantly surprised by the community’s response.
“It’s just overwhelming,” he said. “We’ve used that word a lot, but that’s the best way to describe it.”
He met Dan Thrailkill and Joe Cianciolo at a networking event. After hearing the news about Chambers’ wife, more than 30 businesses in the Cherokee community formed a group chat on Facebook for those wanting to help.
“What would happen if we truly did this together, if we pooled our resources and amplified the results?” Cianciolo said.
Word spread and soon “Cherokee Gives A _______,” a philanthropic association that will focus on countywide issues was formed.
Before the June 21 festival, more than $22,000 had already been raised for the family, Thrailkill said. A GoFundMe dedicated to the cause has raised more than $17,000.
DD Lee, the owner of Skyline Properties Group, knows Jonathan Chambers through the events he organizes for small business owners, but has never met Allie. However, she is also a mother of three, whose children are around the same age as the Chambers’.
“I could not stop thinking about it,” she said. The Chambers have three daughters — Gracie, 11; Natalie, 8; and Maggie, 14 months.
The event last Friday started out with businesses selling their goods to raise money for the family.
Alma Coffee donated all of its proceeds from that day to the family. Pie Bar, Flux Ice Cream and Reformation Brewery dedicated a special flavor and brew to Allie Chambers. Musicians performed free shows.
“People just hit the ground running,” Jonathan said. “It grew so far and so fast and turned into a movement.”
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