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RH Exchange Club pays it forward during meeting
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Dana Lewis, founder of the Pay it Forward Foundation of Bryan County, gives an overview Wednesday of the foundation to the Richmond Hill Exchange Club during its meeting at the Richmond Hill City Center. - photo by Crissie Elric

Members of the Richmond Hill Exchange Club learned a little about “paying it forward” Wednesday at the group’s regular twice-monthly meeting in the Richmond Hill City Center.

Dana Lewis, founder of the Pay it Forward Foundation of Bryan County, a nonprofit organization, spoke about the organization and efforts she and other volunteers make to help Bryan County become a better place.

Lewis said she was inspired to start the organization after becoming a business owner in the community.

“I was struck by how many people, even in our little community, need help from time to time,” she said. “And you would all be surprised to know how many people in our community need help and sometimes just a hand up – not a hand out, but a hand up at times.”

Additionally, she was inspired by a friend who fought and eventually lost a battle with diabetes, she said.

“She was a fighter and she had the fighting spirit and always saw the good in everything,” Lewis said. “She struggled her whole life but all she wanted was health … She was really an inspiration to me because I have my health, thankfully, and my family does, but there are people that don’t and just from time to time need help.”

Lewis said her biggest goal when it comes to making people aware of the foundation is that money isn’t everything.

“My biggest goal is to tell people that writing a check isn’t the only way to help,” she said. “There are (different) things you can do to help – you can offer your time or your services.”

She said plumbers, electricians, carpenters and many others have offered their time and resources to the foundation.

Lewis said recently a woman was in a car accident and became brain damaged. She said the woman’s family helped with her children for some time, but in order for state to allow the woman to get her children back, she needed more space in her home.

“I was asked to help and Carl from Plantation (Lumber and Hardware), he took (the project) on himself,” she said. “He actually built the addition (to the house), but Pay it Forward took the donations and allowed people to donate tax free. We had the electricians, plumbers and everybody who pulled together and built this on so the mother could get her children back, which is a huge gift.”

Other things Lewis said the foundation helps with are gas cards, grocery cards and sometimes even utility bills.

Pay it Forward has also raised funds for children with leukemia and other illnesses, for families who can’t afford medical bills and other expenses and has also helped provide Christmas for less fortunate families.

“There’s a lot of people in Richmond Hill and around that can’t provide for their kids and who can stand to see a child going without? I can’t,” she said.

A big fundraiser the foundation hosts is the “Night on the River” event that in 2009 raised $68,000 for the Matthew Reardon Center for Autism in Savannah.

“That was the biggest and probably the best (fundraiser) ever,” she said. “A couple months back we did another ‘Night on the River’ (fundraiser) and did fairly well to help a young man that has a brain tumor … and also used funds to help a young boy in Richmond Hill that has leukemia.”

The foundation has also raised money for the Richmond Hill Senior Center, and also works with Hope for Savannah – an organization that provides hope and comfort to cancer patients and their families, Lewis said.

Her ultimate goal for the foundation, however, would be to establish a utility assistance program. Another goal of hers is to find a warehouse space to keep more items.

But what Lewis said she wishes most is for people to offer their time, talents and resources.

“Ways you or anybody could help is to donate your services, if not to (Pay it Forward) but to anybody that could use your services because it’s just an easy way to help,” she said.

For more information, visit Pay it Forward’s Facebook page at

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