TIFTON -- The United Way cut the ribbon on their new headquarters Tuesday, the Betty Jo Roach United Way Community Center on Fourth Street.

"This will be a community center that local not-for-profit organizations and the local United Way will be able to use for meetings and special events," said Chris Efaw, president of the United Way of Southcentral Georgia.

The local United Way coordinates fund-raising and helps organize events for more than 20 charity organizations in Ben Hill, Berrien, Cook, Irwin, Tift and Turner Counties.

Tift County had provided a home for the United Way on Tift Avenue, but the headquarters was moved to gain more space.

"Tift County allowed us to stay there for years free of charge," said Efaw, while thanking the county government.

The new center is located in the old location of the organization's soup kitchen, once known as Luther's House for Luther Walker. The soup kitchen was moved to the Neighborhood Service Center on Central Avenue, and the old soup kitchen was remodeled.

"We put it all into one place," said Efaw. "Basically this centralizes all United Way operations in one location."

Much of the ceremony Tuesday was concentrated on the woman the center was named for, Betty Jo Roach. Roach served as executive director of the local United Way for around three decades. Her three sons Clay, Cal and Jeff cut the ribbon for the ceremony.

"We look at this facility as a testimony to the great life of Betty Jo Roach and also as a testament to what the United Way represents," said Efaw.

Roach's long-time friend Christine Tibbetts spoke at length about the former executive director. She said that Roach was an extraordinarily humble woman.

"Betty Jo would rejoice because her community has a community center as fine as this, but to have it bear her name would mystify her," said Tibbetts.

"Betty Jo Roach was all about the needs of others, but that's only one dimension, albeit a major, important one," she said.

Tibbetts said that Roach was most skillful at organizing people, bringing them together and putting them to work for the community.

"She figured out who best fit where, doing what," said Tibbetts.

"I think she saw potential in every name she read and most news items," she said.

Tibbetts said that Roach was a tireless worker, who would do anything to better her community.

"No task was too little or too big for Betty Jo to consider, nothing demeaning and nothing beyond the grasp or the skills of those she encouraged."

Tibbetts also said that her friend had a sense of humor and was laughing often. She had a piece of advice for the people who meet at the center bearing Roach's name.

"We need to be sure we're doing enough laughing in this place to truly honor her," she said.

The new center is adorned with many pieces of artwork, including a painting of Roach. Most of the artwork is for sale and a portion of the proceeds from their sale goes toward the United Way.

Although the inside has been completely refurbished in the building, there is still much work to be done on the outside. Alcoa Foundation and Tifton Aluminum donated $6,500 Tuesday to get some of the outside work finished.

For information on the United Way or to donate time or money to the organization, contact Executive Director Carol Johnson at (229) 382-2881.

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