Leaders Behind DIGS

DIGS Board Members:

Charlie Schroeder
President and Treasurer
Contact Phone: 770.324.2391
Email: cbschroeder@gmail.com

A native of Rome. Graduated East Rome High 1967. Georgia Institute of Technology, Textile Management 1971. Served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. Married to Suzanne Barnett Schroeder and father to Three Children Christian, Cory, Caleigh. Served on Board of Directors of Parent to Parent of Ga. including terms as Treasurer and President. Served as Treasurer of Flint Hill Baptist Church for 18 years. Co-owner of Schroeder's New Deli in Rome. Founding member of DIGS currently serving as President/Treasurer of the Board of Directors. Member of the Exchange Club of Rome.
Barbara Monday
Executive Director
Contact Phone: 706.266.2384
Email: digsrome@gmail.com

Barbara is a mother of two sons with speech/language problems. Due to their disabilities, Barbara returned to school and earned her degree in Speech-Language Pathology and CCC. She worked in the field for 25 years serving students in a variety of school based settings. Her one son, Tom, cannot live independently and she is concerned about his care when she can no longer care for him. Along with other parents and caregivers involved with DIGS, Barbara’s mission and goal is to help provide safe housing, work, and leisure opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. She is a founding member of DIGS and is currently serving as the volunteer Executive Director for the nonprofit.
Louise Schroeder Branham
Vice President
Contact Phone:  404.281.1788
Email: weezie55@gmail.com

Louise was born and raised in Rome, Georgia. She graduated from East Rome High School and attended Georgia Highlands and Shorter College. She is married to Robert Branham and they have two daughters, Mary Katherine of Chicago and Linley of Charleston. She is currently the Director/Manager of the Habitat for Humanity Restore of Rome. Louise serves as Vice President on the DIGS Board of Directors. She is also on the board of the Family Resource Center, and a member of the Rome Exchange Club.
Karen Cook
Contact Phone: 706.853.9449
Email: kalmscook@bellsouth.net

Mother of six and three special needs sons, special needs minister at West Rome Baptist, retired from Harbin Clinic after working in healthcare for 30 years, responsible for introducing challenger sports to RFPRA and Chairperson of the Spring Formal, on the Region 1 RAC board for the Dept of Developmental Disability and Behavioral Health.
Andrew Cook
Peer Representative
Contact Phone: 706.853.9449
Email: kalmscook@bellsouth.net

Andrew graduated from Rome High in 2015. He was involved in a program that was put on by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University.

The program is called My Voice, My Participation, My Board. This is a trading program on board and advisory council memberships. The program is designed to help individuals with Physical and intellectual disabilities grow power in self-advocacy and help them in the process become vital members of boards.
Mary Patton
Contact Phone: 706.506.1511
Email: patton4540@bellsouth.net

Mary was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  She attended Atlanta Public schools and Graduated from Reinhardt Junior College with an AA degree in 1974. Mary is married to S. Stephen Patton. Mary’s past experience has been working with the Cerebral Palsy Center, which is now known as Network Day Services and has managed an in home daycare for several years. She attends St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, is active in Altar Guild, a greeter, Loaves and Fishes and has served on Vestry and as Senior Warden. Mary is currently active on boards in the local community of the Floyd Training and Service Center, the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and the current secretary of the DIGS board. She is also active in the Rome Board of realtors and has been a licensed realtor with Toles, Temple and Wright since 1989.
Laura Harrison
Contact Phone: 770.548.9117
Email: l6870harrison@att.net

Laura is a DIGS, Inc. founding member and currently serves on the board of directors. She has had a variety of interesting occupations to include small business owner, bridal consultant, and activity director for assisted living. Laura is active with DIGS because of her grandson Justin. She is glad he has activities to do and if hopeful he will one day have a home when he needs it.
Randy Quick
Contact Phone: 706.767.0999
Email: randyq@south107.com

Randy is a life-long resident of Rome and Floyd County, Georgia. He and his wife Janie have been married for 38 years. Their daughter Kristin is a graduate of Jacksonville State University and employed by the Rome City School system. Randy is a partner and general manager of Rome Radio Partners WTSH-FM (South 107), WQTU (Q102), WRBF (The Rebel), WRGA (Rome’s News-Talk), WSRM (93.5 LIFE-FM), WGJK (Magic 1360), and WZOT (Hometown 1220). Randy’s previous contributions to the local community are past Chairman of the Board Greater Rome Area Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Rome Floyd Economic Development Authority, Chairman of Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce Business Expo 2001, 2002, and 2003, Past Chairman of the Board of the United Way of Rome and Floyd County and Past Chairman of the Board Exchange Club Family Resource Center of Rome. Randy is a Graduate of Leadership Rome XVII, Coordinator of Leadership Rome XXI and a member of the Rome Rotary- Paul Harris Fellow. He is currently active in other areas of the community including Chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, Board of Directors Cartersville Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors Rome Symphony Orchestra, Foundation Board Georgia Highlands College, Board of Directors Communities in Schools, Board of Directors Open Door Home, Board of Directors Rome International Film Festival, Christmas in Rome Committee, Board of Directors DIGS, Inc. and Lay Leader Lindale United Methodist Church.
Rita Lawler
Contact Phone: 706.238.3155
Email: lawler.rita@gmail.com

Rita moved to Rome in 1979 with her husband, Dr. Peter Lawler. She has a BA in Government from Centre College, and a MA in Government from the University of Virginia, 1977. Rita was the Executive Director of Network from 1980-1994. She was especially proud of the work the Board did to promote and advocate for community inclusion of members. She developed the Network supported employment program for individuals and groups. Rita was the Executive Director of Mercy Care Rome from 1994-2015. In both agencies she was responsible for program development, budget and quality compliance, personnel and community relations. Rita’s life and that of her family was profoundly impacted when her sister Sara was born with Down’s syndrome in 1964. She promised her family she would always help protect and care for Sara. Sara has lived with the Lawler’s since 1996 and has attended Network and been an original participant in the Just as I am Choir and other wonderful community activities of the DIGS group. She is very concerned about Sara’s long term future as she is the sole provider of care. She values the work of DIGS as a primary way to assist Sara and others with similar needs. Rita and Peter had one daughter, Catherine Lawler Jackson who lives in Decatur with her husband Patrick and grandchildren Henry and Molly.
John Schroeder
Contact Phone: 706.506.3087
Email: newdelijohn@comcast.net
Winston Sirmans
Contact Phone: 706.676.8359
Virginia Word
Contact Phone: 404.293.6131
Email: ginnyword@gmail.com

Ginny Word is a retired special education administrator. Beginning her career as a teacher assistant, she has held various roles including director of special education and instructional support teacher. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from UGA, she continued her education with a Master’s degree from George Mason University and an Educational Specialist’s degree from Georgia State University. She currently lives in Rome, GA where she enjoys volunteering with several different organizations. Most of the time, you will find her outside in her garden or riding her motorcycle off into the countryside along with her husband, Jay.

Other Leaders of DIGS:

Kimberly McGuiness
Founding Member,
Web Content Manager
Contact Phone: 706.767.8832
Email: kimberly@kimberlymcguiness.com

Kimberly has been involved in special education for some 19+ years. Because of her own daughter’s life journey of living with deaf autism, Kimberly has stepped up to become an activist for deaf and hard of hearing citizens and other individuals living with developmental disabilities. Because of her strong will in making a difference in the world and in people lives, she received the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 2010 from President Obama. The Citizenship Medal is the second highest award from the President to an American citizen. Kimberly is the first of thirteen citizens to ever receive such an honor. Her goals are helping to improve the quality of life for others and giving back to communities. She has a long term relationship with her best friend and husband of 21+ years. In 2002 Kimberly and her family relocated to Georgia for her daughter to attend Georgia School for the Deaf. The best move they could have made for her daughter's growth, independence, and her family.
Brandi Nicole Littlejohn
Public Relations, Board of Advisors
Contact Phone: 706.346.8468
Email: bnlittlejohn@gmail.com

Brandi Nicole Littlejohn is a native of Rome, Georgia. She is the daughter of Jimmy and Donna Littlejohn, and the sister of Jeremy Littlejohn. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations from the University of Georgia, Athens, graduating summa cum laude in May 2003. She received her master’s degree in business administration from Shorter University in December 2006. Brandi works at Floyd Medical Center, and she has served in a variety of roles since joining the organization in 2002. She currently investigates and implements quality, process and performance improvements for the organization, and she is expected to earn Floyd’s Lean Six Sigma black belt certification in 2013.She enjoys spending her time and energy serving her community through various organizations and opportunities, especially things that enhance the lives of whose individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

She is a member of Oak Hill Church of Christ. She received the 2003 President’s Award from the Greater Georgia Chapter of the Autism Society of America for the work she did during college. She has been a member of the Public Relations Society of America since 2003, and she has served as the Professional Advisor for Berry College’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter since its inception in 2010. She enjoys playing tennis, and she began serving on the Coosa Valley Tennis Association Board in 2010. She began helping with Rome-Floyd Parks & Recreation Authority’s Challenger Sports in 2006 and continues to serve on the board and coach a team each season with her parents. Challenger Sports began hosting a Spring Formal in 2007, and Brandi serves on this board in the role as public relations chairperson each year. She also joined the efforts of DIGS, Inc. in 2006 helping with public relations and fundraising.

Joy Wyatt Jones
Historian, Board of Advisors,
Founding Member
Contact Phone: 706.506.5689
Email: jones5689@comcast.net

Joy is a life-long resident of Floyd County. She has worked as a nurse for 36 years and is currently director of Heyman HospiceCare at Floyd Hospital. Joy also contributes her time in the community as volunteer for America Cancer Society and on the Board of Directors of Network day Services, Inc. She has 2 daughters, Monica and Karen Jones Honeycutt, and 1 grandson. She enjoys boating, reading, and taking her daughter, Monica, to DIGS Activities.
Debbie Malone
Educational Liaison
Email: debbiejeanm@gmail.com
Mary Williams
Founding Member
Contact Phone: 706.767.4564
Email: stevemary1228@gmail.com

Mary is a retired school administrator. She was a special education teacher before becoming an administrator. Mary became involved with DIGS because of her sweet son, Noah. She had no idea of all the blessings she and Noah would receive from being part of the DIGS family. As Mary and Noah constantly participate in fundraising projects, Noah is also involved in many leisure activities. The close friends her son has made has been a Godsend. Mary says, “The love and support from the parents, caregivers and the “kids” have gotten so many of us through tough times, we are a family.”
Linda Castellanos
Founding Member
Contact Phone: 706.766.6157
Email: castellanos0310@comcast.net

Linda is a founding member of DIGS. She has worked in the field of Special Education for 32 years. Eighteen of those years were in Floyd County as a special education teacher and administrator. She is currently working for the Georgia Department of Education. Linda and her husband Carlos have been married for 33 years and they live in Silver Creek, GA. They have two adult sons, Alex and Austin. Linda is also an active member of Pleasant Valley South Baptist Church.
Lamar Paul
Founding Member
Contact Phone: 706.232.0960
Email: romepauls@mindspring.com

Lamar was born and raised in Plains, GA. In 1969, he moved to Rome with his wife, Barbara, and their five children. He helped in the construction of many power plants in GA, TN, and Alabama and was a member of the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 766 of Rome, now local 72 of Atlanta. He also served in the Army National Guard for 13 years and the Army Reserves for 21 years. Lamar was employed by The Georgia Power Company for 11 years prior to my retirement in 1996. Lamar has 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. He and his wife have taken care of their grandson, Michael (who has Prader-Willi Syndrome), since he was only a few months old. Michael is now 28 and Lamar’s wife passed away in August 2012. Lamar has served as a Board Member for the Prader-Willi Association of GA. To read more about this syndrome, visit www.pwsaga.org.

He frequently attends Michael’s concerts with the "Just as I Am" Choir. He and his wife, Barbara were charter members of DIGS, Inc. (Developing Independence, Growth & Security). Along with DIGS, we have been passionate in trying to raise funds to build a new group home in Rome. Lamar and Barbara donated the land for that purpose, have made numerous donations, and have helped in fundraising activities. He and Michael are members of the Shorter Avenue Baptist Church and Lamar enjoys helping with minor repairs / maintenance of the church. He also enjoys reading, watching baseball, and taking his grandson fishing.
Jean Battle
Founding Member
Email: jhbattle7@comcast.net

Jean is a retired teacher of 32 years from Pepperell High School. She is married to a wonderful husband of 43 years with two wonderful sons and a grandson. Jean has served with Habitat for Humanity during the years 1988-90. She has also served in many other areas in her community including a co-president of the Human Relations Council, School Improvement, Special Education Department Head, Lead Teacher, Church Secretary, and currently has a Tutoring Service. Jean enjoys cooking for others, reading, healthy eating and visiting the sick and those unable to leave their homes. Her ultimate goal is to continue to help adults with developmental disabilities live a comfortable and meaningful quality lifestyle.
Mark ("Pop") Harrison
Founding Member
Contact Phone: 706.291.2756
Email: jmarkharr@att.net

Julian Mark “Pop” Harrison is a Retired U. S. Navy veteran. Mark or “Pop” as he is known in the community was president of Harrison & Sons dba as Happy Day Chrysler-Plymouth, Coosa Motor Co. dba National Car Rentals, and Julian Harrison Finance. He also presided as Vice President of Julian Harrison Ford. Pop is a long time member of First Baptist Church and choir. His special interests are in activities that support the quality of life and growth for adults living with developmental disabilities. His hobby interests are in photography, stamps, coins and car collecting. Pop is father of two children and grandfather to three grandchildren. He uses his spare time to volunteer at Floyd Hospital.
Blanca Gonzalez
Board of Advisors
Contact Phone: 706.234.3481
Email: blancagz@aol.com

Blanca was born in Havana, Cuba. Her family moved to the United States in 1960 and made Milledgeville, Georgia their home. Blanca is married to Dr. Raul Gonzales, M.D. and together they have three wonderful sons, Dr. Raul S. Gonzalez, M.D., Alex Gonzalez, and Victor Gonzalez. She has served on the local community boards of Hospitality House, Harbor House, Garden Study, DIGS, and is a past President of Medical Alliance. Blanca is currently an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Georgia Highlands College.
Linda Floyd Blackwell
Founding Member
Contact Phone: 706.346.8465
Email: lindablackwell579@gmail.com

Linda was raised in South Carolina. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Psychology.  She married to her husband CQ Blackwell and they have three lovely daughters.  Their oldest daughter has a developmental disability.  It was discovered when she was 7 months old that she had bilateral schizencephaly, which meant she was missing a lot of her brain, which didn’t develop.  Much of Linda’s life has been devoted to making sure her daughter had the therapies, education and whatever she needed to have a full productive life.  Linda currently works full time as a Region 1 Planning List Administrator for DBHDD.  She is passionate about helping other individuals and families get the services they need to live a full and productive life.  Linda is a graduate of the 2006 Partners in Policymaking Class and a founding member of DIGS.
Suzanne Schroeder
Founding Member
Contact Phone: 770.324.2392
Email: suzschroeder52@gmail.com

Suzanne retired from Delta Air Lines after working more than 32 years as a flight attendant. She is married to Charlie Schroeder and they have three children Christian, Cory and Caleigh and three grandchildren.