The Winner’s Club is a modest white clubhouse decorated with marigolds on the outskirts of Calhoun, Georgia. This little white house is the culmination of a dream. It was planted in the heart of William Balliew 30 years ago and birthed not too long after. It is now a place that aids mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, and handicapped children do things others believed they could not.
William Balliew was born in Calhoun. He was the son of a cotton-mill operator and just an ordinary country boy. He married, had a family, and worked in the Juvenile court system in the city. He initially began his service when he started a Cub Scout pack for mentally disabled boys. Though it was a grand undertaking, he took it on and succeeded. Once he met the young men and had a chance to interact with them, he decided against Cub Scouts and started a Boy Scout troop. He realized everyone could be a winner at something.
The scout troop was a success, and it eventually expanded to include girls and young children. Soon, the needs, goals, and ambitions began to strain at the scouting guidelines. Balliew then created the Winner’s Club. The children that no one else wanted suddenly had a place all their own. It was a special place just for them filled with love and encouragement. It was a gateway to finding self-confidence and self-esteem.
The Club began in an old storage shed. However, as the years went by, the community responded to the love that this man and his wife were doling out in generous portions. The entire community saw the changes that were taking place in their lives. The Club saw a young boy who had always wanted to play football but was never encouraged to do so because he was different receive his high school letterman’s jacket. They saw a young man who loved running win the gold medal at the International Special Olympics in Brockport, New York. A 12-year-old girl who rarely spoke to anyone became a college graduate and is now one of the Winner’s Club Directors.
Balliew and the Winner’s Club have touched many lives. They have showed the community the diamonds that many wanted to forget. They have also shown a special group of children that they are indeed important and can succeed in whatever they work to do. Balliew takes every opportunity to booster the children’s pride with his love and gentleness. They know and are determined to do their best because they can and they know “Mr. Balliew” expects it.
The Winner’s Club is involved in many aspects of the community in addition to ministering to the youth that are a part of the club. They sing for local churches, rebuild automobiles, refinish furniture, grow gardens, take field trips, cook, manage honeybee hives, and attend church together. The Winner’s Club has received national and international attention through Reader’s Digest, American Express-United Way Hometown America Project, and Betty Crocker.