History of the Rockdale House(s)
Rockdale House was founded in
1974 by a group of concerned citizens with diverse backgrounds who met in an
upstairs room on Center St. in Old Town Conyers. A committee was formed from
which the first Board of Directors was elected: Brad Butler was the chairman
and Barbara Edwards the secretary.
At first, alcoholics were taken
in at Brad and Sue's home; eventually, the first evolution of the House was
located at 995 Peek St., Conyers. It began as a co-educational venture but
this was soon deemed too problematical in a recovery setting. Consequently,
the women resided at Brad and Sue's home and attended meetings at the Peek St.
The house on Peek St. was
formerly the Brisendine residence; it had been converted into apartments and
was severely dilapidated, a pickup truck full of beer and liquor bottles
had to be carted away. To refurbish and furnish the property, a $5,000.00 loan
was negotiated at Rockdale Bank, signed for by the original board members.
Subsequently, grants from Delta Airlines and the Woodruff Foundation sufficed
to pay off the note and purchase the first van. Sue and Brad sold their house
and moved into Peek St. because they were the only staff.
In 1975, a greenhouse was
established at Peek St. Sue was the director of the Men's House until 1985,
retired for several months and then returned to inaugurate a Women's House
which she directed until 1991. Diane Chandler was her assistant and became
Executive Director when Sue again retired. The Men's House moved to Scott St.
in 1987 and a back wing was constructed to accommodate more residents.
The program was available to
anyone who wanted to overcome alcohol addiction. The Rockdale Mental Health
System pledged a certain amount of funding per day per resident. Georgia
Medical Health Institute donated enough funds to cover one half of the staff
salaries. Local churches and civic organizations also helped fund the
The program was tightly
structured and based entirely on AA's 12-steps to recovery. Initially
the neighbors were opposed to the House but ultimately warmed to the idea. In
the mid 80's Rockdale House almost closed several times due to lack of funding
but the Reverend Carl Smith, during his 20-year tenure on the Board, always
managed to solicit sufficient donations. In 1982, Judge Clarence Vaughn
interceded and helped the house acquire a state grant to be administered
through the Gwinnett-Rockdale-Newton Regional Board, a branch of the State
Dept. of Human Resources.
The house has subsequently
helped to restore hundreds of lives and families. It has always attempted to
maintain an educational component in its therapy. The policies and procedures
are demonstrably effective: A study undertaken by the University of
Georgia School of Social Work determined that 37% of Rockdale House men who
completed the program and 40% of it's women, were still sober after five
years. This is well over twice the recovery rate of other programs.
the Rev. Lee Womack of St. Simon's Episcopal Church, the Rev. Albert Myers of
Conyers First Presbyterian and the Rev. Carl Smith of Smyrna Presbyterian with
Linda Farris of the Rockdale Mental Health Association look over Rockdale
House to determine what's needed (1974).