Area moms, daughters bond through work, volunteering

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Jason A. Smith


Denese Rodgers and her mother share a sort of shorthand. Working together at Connecting Henry, a social service agency in Henry County where Rodgers is the executive director and her mother, Joyce Rodgers, is a volunteer, the pair complement each others' skill sets, Denese Rodgers said.

"The nice thing about working with Mom is, we can bypass a lot of the political dance that you would have with a peer or with someone else in the community," she said. "The other nice thing is that we have an intuitive component. I don't have to come out and say, 'I need A, B, C, D, E and F because of H, I, J, K, L and M.' I can say, 'We've got to get this done.' She is very good at what I'm not. We mesh very well."

The Rodgerses, like other mother-daughter workplace teams, share a bond on and off the job.

And as Mother's Day approaches on Sunday, several local mothers and daughters who work and volunteer together said they value the bonds they share.

Denese Rodgers said her mother, who retired from the Henry County Health Department, has "enormous compassion for her world" and has been a part of Connecting Henry "from the get-go."

"She's part of how it got here," said Denese Rodgers, 48, of Stockbridge "It helps that she's the consummate professional, and that she sees things from a big-picture point of view."

Joyce Rodgers, 72, of McDonough, splits her volunteer endeavors at Connecting Henry with other committees on which she is a member. In 1998, she won Henry County's Athena Award, recognizing excellence for women in business, a distinction Denese Rodgers earned in 2003.

"She's an initiator, and she has the knowledge to get things done," Joyce Rodgers said of her daughter. "She's so enthusiastic, she can get people doing things they weren't ever going to do. She is such a dynamite person, and her goal is to make this world a better place for a lot of people, not just her and her's."

A family business

Sisters Bettrena Williamson and Coylitia Williamson-O'Neal are helping their mother, Betty Brown-Williamson, to carry on a legacy of reaching out to people in their time of need. The sisters operate Williamson Mortuary in Riverdale, which their mother has owned for the past eight years.

Williamson is a funeral director, and Williamson-O'Neal conducts public-relations efforts for the business while their mother operates a second mortuary in Athens.

Williamson-O'Neal, 39, of Stockbridge, said she and her sister have a great relationship with their mother, and have learned from her how to run a business. The experience, according to her, is different from working for a traditional employer.

"Even though we don't see my mother every day, we know she's a phone call away," she said. "If any problems or issues arise, we know she's available. When you work for someone else, they don't call you at home and make sure you do what you're supposed to do."

Williamson-O'Neal added that she is grateful for her mother's role in her life, and appreciates the values Betty Brown-Williamson has strived to instill in her.

"I hear people say, 'I wish my boss would go fall off a cliff,'" Williamson-O'Neal said. "I never thought anything like that, because she was my mother. I realized that everything she was trying to show us for the business is for our future and our kids' future. I love my mother and I'm so grateful to have her in my life. I think she is the reason that I am the woman I am today. She's a strong woman, she's intelligent, and she's full of wisdom."

Williamson, 36, of College Park, agreed with her sister about the contributions their mom continues to make toward their business.

"She gives us a lot of leeway to make the business run, and to do the things that we need to do without being so overly hands-on," Williamson said. "But, she's always available and she makes it known that we can depend on her and call her anytime."

Betty Brown-Williamson, 67, of Athens, said she has strived to instill the values of honesty and integrity in her children's lives, and said she is proud of what her daughters have accomplished in their careers.

"It's a joy ... as a mother, to see your daughters grow up and be responsible citizens -- Christian young women, doing what's right because it's right to do," Brown-Williamson said. "They do a wonderful job. They represent our family very well. I'm very pleased."

Fellow volunteers

Melissa Dodgen, 32, of Hampton, a former Miss Special Henry County and a board member for the Mr. and Miss Special Henry County Pageant, said one of her favorite aspects of those activities is being able to work with her mother and fellow volunteer, Connie Dodgen.

"It's just so much fun to get to spend time with my mom," Melissa Dodgen said. "My mom's the best volunteer in the world. She works very hard for her volunteer job, and she has a big heart."

Connie Dodgen, 52, of Hampton, is a director for People First of Henry County, which aims to assist individuals with disabilities.

"She's my right arm," Connie Dodgen said of her daughter. "She does so much for me. It's pretty much a full-time job, being a volunteer. It means the whole world to me, because I would be leaving her a lot if she didn't."

The Dodgen mother-daughter duo volunteered at a golf tournament benefiting People First on Thursday, with members from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. Connie Dodgen said that in addition to Melissa, her love of volunteering is shared by her husband, Marshall, and her daughter, Katie, 24.

"To me, volunteering is just part of being a mother," Connie Dodgen said. "I have always tried to volunteer where my kids were involved. I think that has made us a lot closer, and has helped them to have a big heart."