When Lynn Hawkins’ father died from lung cancer in 2007, she was devastated.
“After he passed away, I had to find something to do with my time,” said Hawkins, who decided to become a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and served as chair for the organization’s Relay for Life in Murray County for several years.
Then, the veteran employee of the Whitfield County Tax Commissioner’s Office says, the Lord laid it on her heart to help local cancer patients in an additional way.
“I’m like, I don’t know what You want me to do – I don’t have money to help these people,” Hawkins recalled, “but He just kept laying it on my heart that if you can raise $10,000 a year for the American Cancer Society, you can raise $10,000 a year and help people in your community, too.”
That calling from above led Hawkins to found Sassy’s Hope, a low-budget volunteer organization that nevertheless has had a profound impact on hundreds of cancer patients and their families in the five counties of Whitfield, Murray, Catoosa, Walker, and Gordon since 2015.
In the early days, “we started out by selling T-shirts to raise money,” Hawkins recalled, “and my prayer has been, and will always be, that I never have to turn anyone away. And we’ve never had to turn anyone away for a gas card.”
Hawkins prefers to remain out of the spotlight, but someone recently nominated her for the Mountain View Nissan Drive It Forward contest. She wound up being chosen one of eight finalists in the competition, which looks “for people who really go out of their way to help others and make life in our community better so that we can return the favor,” according to the dealership’s website.
Hawkins could even be driving a new Nissan Versa S Plus later this fall when the winner of the contest is chosen.
"We are really excited to be a part of this wonderful community, and we want to give back by positively impacting the lives of the people of Dalton,” Mountain View General Manager Thomas Williams said. “As a way of expressing our thanks and continuing the kindness you have shown us all here at Mountain View Nissan of Dalton, we want to give back to you. Drive it Forward is our new campaign to ‘pay it forward.’ We want to recognize what truly makes Dalton such a great place: the people."
Cancer patients in the area are grateful Sassy’s Hope has paid it forward over the past four years.
“We provide gas cards for people that are going through treatment, we help with wigs, we do some nutrition, like supplements, and we have helped with walkers and porta-potties, basically just small things that patients need because we’re obviously not a big organization,” Hawkins said. “But we do help quite a few people in the area.”
In fact, Hawkins and about 20 volunteers have held all kinds of events, including bingo and Breakfast with Santa, to raise money to pay for the gas cards and their “Bags of Hope,” which carry the uplifting message “No One Fights Alone” and contain many small items to help cancer patients.
“The bags have a variety of stuff in them,” she said. “We always try to include a chip, a sweet, and a hard candy because when patients are doing chemo and radiation, their mouths get really dry so we always put hard candy in there and just something for them to snack on.”
The volunteers give out the bags whenever they see a need, including regular stops at cancer centers in Dalton and Calhoun. “It makes the patients feel good because they feel like they’re getting a gift … somebody cares enough about them to actually make something for them,” Hawkins explained.
Hawkins figures Sassy’s Hope has handed out a total of more than 700 gas cards and approximately 300 Bags of Hope, with many more, she hopes, still to be distributed in the future.
The organization’s most popular event of the year is A Night of Hope, to which all the people they’ve helped during the past year are invited to let them know the community cares about them.
“That’s our biggest event to raise money because we ask for corporate sponsors,” Hawkins said.
In addition to her own father, she has seen many close friends lose family members to cancer over the years. “It just breaks my heart,” Hawkins said.
Sassy’s Hope doesn’t worry about income limits, she says, when handing out the gas cards - $25 weekly for chemo patients and $50 weekly for radiation patients since they have to go five times a week for treatment.
“We don’t care what their income is,” Hawkins said, “because we realize your income is going to change when you start going through chemo or radiation.”
Even if Hawkins doesn’t wind up winning the Drive It Forward contest, she has already impressed at least one person with her generous spirit – Tax Commissioner Danny Sane.
“Ever since Lynn started working here, her entire career here has been about giving – giving to the taxpayers, giving to the car dealers, giving to anybody that walks through our door,” Sane said.
He pointed out the inclusion of mints in the Bags of Hope, a seemingly small item that is actually greatly appreciated by the recipients.
“Lynn told me that once you get cancer, it leaves such a horrible taste in your mouth after having a treatment, and those mints are one of the only things that’ll take that taste out of your mouth,” Sane said. “Just that little thing has impressed me so much that not only does she care, she cares enough to find out the little things.
“You know, Lynn can’t cure anybody of cancer,” Sane said, “but she sure prays for ’em, she sure does for ’em. Lynn takes helping others to a higher level. She does it with all the love in her heart and with Christ in her heart, too.”
That’s obvious since Hawkins made it plain from the beginning of the interview for this story that she prefers to remain in the shadows, but she hopes that the publicity about the Drive It Forward contest will allow Sassy’s Hope to provide even more help for cancer patients in the future.
After all, she watched her own father lose his 2½ year battle with lung and brain cancer when he was just 54 years old, “and that taught me a lesson that you live life to its fullest every day,” Hawkins said.
If you’d like more information about Sassy’s Hope, email Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 706-280-1249.