June 2016: Rita Wagers Celebrates 22 Years with First Steps

by Holly Rice, Executive Director, Family Support Council, Dalton GA

Rita Wagers began her second career as the Family Support Council’s First Steps Coordinator on September 1, 1994.  Twenty-two years later she continues to serve in that capacity.   

The First Steps program has flourished under Rita’s leadership.  Co-worker Mary Smith summed up why this First Steps site has been so successful.  “Rita is very competitive and always goes beyond the 2nd mile to do whatever it takes to do the best possible job.”  Prior to working at Family Support Council, Rita was a teacher for more than 25 years.   Co-worker Tom Bartley, former principal, knew her during her tenure at Dalton Public Schools and said “I’ve known Rita for about 40 years.  She is a retired school teacher (as am I) and as such was always creative and cared deeply about her students.  We have both been employed at the Family Support Council for a number of years.  Rita’s work ethic is beyond reproach.  She has a big heart and wants all of our clients to be the best they can be and works tirelessly to support them in any way she can.”  

In addition to her First Steps duties, Rita started and operates “Rita’s Closet”, which is a clothes closet that is accessed by people in the community almost daily.  Rita is an extraordinarily generous person. Providing clothing and household items for people in need gives her an opportunity to harness her generous spirit and benefit people who are in need.  Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren frequently access “Rita’s Closet.”   Rita’s reach across this two-county area is wide:  she provides information and resources to families at the birth of their children through First Steps and continues to provide assistance with basic needs for people of all ages.  

Co-worker Chelsea DeWaters said, “When I joined the staff at Family Support Council, Rita was the head of the welcoming committee!  She is not only our in-house interior decorator, making sure our front door and waiting area are always festive and inviting, our conference rooms both professional and comfortable, and our building generally kept up and taken care of.  She also, in her usual thorough and caring fashion ensured that my new office was clean and put together with all of the necessary furniture and accoutrements.  On my first day, before I’d ever met Rita, because of her I walked into a space that told me I was already part of the team.  That’s what Rita does.”


Co-worker Caroline Pence captured the essence of Rita with the following statement:   “To say that Rita has connections within our community is a true understatement.  Either through her own large extended family or the many families she has touched during both her teaching and First Steps careers, Rita knows almost everyone in our community, and, through the years, has undoubtedly touched many lives.  She understands the value of relationship and recognizes the transformative power generated through true relationship with others.  With clients and co-workers alike, Rita provides the encouragement, guidance, and support that become stepping stones for future successes.  She is a truly generous soul who gives of herself without thought of recognition or reciprocation, only the contentment and joy that come from doing the next right thing.”


Rita keeps the ‘family’ in Family Support Council.  She works hard to make the work place as much like a home as possible and never wavers in her desire to support her co-workers.  Underneath the surface of a sometimes gruff exterior lies a heart of pure gold.   The Family Support Council staff and the families we serve are truly blessed to have this colorful, strong-willed, persistent advocate in our midst. 

Congratulations, Rita!