Athens Habitat’s Paul Dorsey Gets Award Nod

ACCA’s 2019 Age Well Live Well award nominees (L-R): Geri Williams, Harold Rittenberry, Jim Stephens, Lucy McCannon, Tim Johnson, Marjorie Harris, Paul Dorsey, Hilda Daniel, and Betsy Bean (not pictured, Lee Epting and Barbara Benson)

If you shop or donate at the Habitat thrift on Barber Street in Athens, there’s a good chance you’ve met Paul Dorsey, Jr. Tall, gregarious, and with a seemingly inborn urge to help others, Paul has been a fixture at the stores for nearly two decades, all the way back to the days when the ReStore occupied a dirt-floor barn a few blocks north of its current location by the tracks at Cleveland Avenue.

This year, Mr. Dorsey was one of 10 nominees for the Age Well Live Well award presented by the Athens Community Council on Aging for seniors who “connect, create, and contribute” in our community. Paul has been doing all of these things throughout his life, despite the challenges and restrictions of physical disability.

“In 1972 I was in a head-on crash in a VW Bug just outside our house,” Paul recalls. His father performed CPR, keeping Paul alive until the ambulance could get there. The resulting injuries impaired his speech, hearing, and motor functions, but it didn’t dim Paul’s love of life and of humanity.

After a couple years of physical recovery, Paul enrolled at Berry College in Rome, GA, graduating in 1979. He then taught agriculture in Coffee County, which was difficult not only because of his physical restrictions but because the students would sometimes tease him about how he spoke and how he moved. After a time selling real estate, Paul came on board with Athens Area Habitat.

“My father helped get Habitat started here,” says Paul. “He really believed in it. And that’s how I got involved.” Although Paul Sr. passed away in 2000, the Habitat-built neighborhood of Dorsey Village still bears his name. And his legacy of connecting, creating, and contributing lives on in his eldest son.

“Paul makes every person who walks into our store feel happy,” says Athens Habitat’s outreach director Hannah Mitchell. “And he’ll go the extra mile for anybody. We have regulars who ask about him if he’s not in. It’s employees like Paul who make customers want to come back, and their purchases go directly toward our mission to provide housing for neighbors in need right here in Clarke, Oconee, and Oglethorpe counties.”

“Paul Dorsey is an institution at Athens Habitat,” says executive director Spencer Frye. “He’s an inspiration. Many of the simple tasks of daily life can be difficult for him, but he never slows down, he doesn’t complain, and he always wants to give to others. He’s a living example of fortitude, persistence, and quite honestly of love for his fellow human beings, which we could use a lot more of on this earth.”

Dorsey was honored at a May 29th ceremony in downtown Athens, GA.