Cherokee Connect, the illustrious Cherokee County Facebook group, sparks connections, inspires residents to help neighbors in need and fosters a greater sense of community, which was especially impactful during the pandemic, when we were not always able to interact face-to-face. The group’s creator and fearless leader, Canton resident Josh Bagby, started the page in October 2019. And, in just over three years, the group has grown to more than 63,500 members who can create posts asking for recommendations for the best food, goods and services or for help with food, shelter and clothing.
“To say that it has grown into something I didn’t expect would be an understatement,” Bagby said. “The heart behind the group was to connect people. Originally, I thought we’d connect people to local businesses and local charities. As a small-business owner, I have a passion and desire to help others succeed. My family and I also have a desire to give back and leave this place better than we found it. I knew we were not alone in those feelings, so Facebook’s group feature seemed like a great way to bring like-minded folks together.”
Our county is continuously growing, yet residents who were born here and those who have moved here love the tight-knit community and small-town feel in our cities. It comes as no surprise that, when asked, members of Cherokee Connect said some of the best things that have come from the platform are the humor and the love and support group members show our community.
“What I quickly realized was that people connect over all sorts of things — the first I noticed was humor,” Bagby said. Each Friday, he gets things rolling with a “Friday Funnies” post and a meme. This tradition has been a hit for three years, and the group still responds each week with 400-plus of the funniest memes on the internet, Bagby said.
Some of the funniest, most memorable posts include the ballad of Cherokee Connect, the Chic Black Man and the sleeping horse. Kelli Miller wrote a poem about the group, also known as the “Cherokeet Beat,” which highlights some of the most notable group posts to date: http://bit.ly/3UZ9jQF. Her poem references the Chic Black Man (of course), which came about from a voice-to-text fail after a gentleman created a post looking for a “sheetrock man” in Canton. Carlos Hill, former Canton resident, answered the call and ran with it: http://bit.ly/3g55cnt. And, after multiple visits from animal control and members of the community about a “dead” horse along Univeter Road (also referenced in Miller’s poem), Danielle Rowe posted signs, which read: Horse is not dead. He is sleeping (http://bit.ly/3AhZw03).
While the group bonds over memes and all things funny, members also come together to help neighbors and strangers. “We’ve located the owner of a Sequoyah class ring found in a north Georgia river. We’ve seen a local businessman quickly step up and buy the River Ridge band a new refrigerator for its concession stand. We’ve had total strangers buy furniture to send to a young man adopting his siblings out of foster care. We had a guy show up with a chainsaw to clear a trail for children with special needs to take therapeutic rides on (http://bit.ly/3O8UVD7). We’ve had car clubs spin off of the group. We have a wildlife group (http://bit.ly/3hJ2BA7) that was birthed out of Connect. Book clubs. Walking groups. Friends, and maybe a marriage or two,” Bagby said.
It would be nearly impossible to name everyone who has donated money, goods or services, or those who have gone out of their way to return lost wallets and other items, as many remain anonymous. “Folks with hearts like that often prefer it that way,” Bagby said. There are things that come from the group that no one knows about, but here are a handful of the best things Cherokee Connect has facilitated, according to the group:
• Someone helped provide a refrigerator and a microwave to ACE/i-Grad academy for the teachers’ lunch room.
• A local resident donated an older vehicle to a mother in need.
• The group arranged for an unsheltered woman to stay in a hotel for nearly two months during the winter, through Butterfly Whisper, a Canton-based nonprofit that provides assistance. She received help in obtaining identification documents and getting two jobs.
• A local couple rebuilt a back deck for an elderly man.
• Cherokee County School District’s reduced lunch program debt has been knocked out twice by the group.
• The group donated money and services to have a widowed senior’s house painted on Crisler Street.
As of November, Bagby pulled the numbers, and there were more than 66,000-plus posts, 1.2 million comments and 2.3 million likes and reactions last year. “It’s a lot to keep tabs on, but I have an awesome moderation team helping me out. It’s social media, but we do our best to keep it productive, useful and as friendly as possible. I wholeheartedly believe the good outweighs the bad,” he said.
To join the group, visit www.facebook.com/groups/1308529209319801.