Water Awareness Signs Dedicated to Justus Teal Williams

Water Awareness Signs Dedicated | South Hall Rotary | Gainesville, GA

On Wednesday, April 20th, 2022 members of South Hall Rotary and the community joined with the Williams family to dedicate the first of many water quality awareness signs in tribute to Justus Teal Williams. 

Jeff and Jess Williams with sign at River Forks Park

These signs were birthed from the Rotary District’s initiatives of conducting a community service project that centered around the environment and the touching tribute to the memory of Rotarian Jeff William’s son Justus Teal Williams.

Members of the club were joined by Assistant Governor Chad Bingham, AGE Andy Garrison, and multiple members of the Hall County Commission, Hall County Parks and Leisure, and Lake Lanier Association to provide awareness of the potential hazards in the water.

During the dedication, attendees heard from Club Leadership, Jess Williams – mother of Justus Teal Williams and Hall County Commissioner Shelley Echols.  Echols shared that although “we are blessed to live on the beautiful shores of Lake Lanier; however, the lake—just like any attraction—comes with its own set of inherent risks.”   She went on to thank the club for “allowing Hall County to play host to this first sign that will warn the public about those inherent risks, and in doing so, will save countless lives.”

Hall County Commissioner Shelley Echols speaks on behalf of Hall County Government.

The project was inspired by the tragic story of one little boy and a mother who just wasn’t aware of the possibilities of e coli in natural bodies of water after high rainfall in the area.  Jess Williams shared that if she had even known that it was possible for her 2-year-old son to have difficulties fighting off bacteria from the lake she might have made a different choice on the day they took their son to Don Carter State Park at Lake Lanier.

“We had no idea what was happening to Justus when we took him to the doctors and the doctors weren’t sure either,” stated President-Elect Jeff Williams.  “It was after our son passed away that we became aware of the fact that he had one of the hundreds of strands of e coli and at such a young age it is difficult for their system to fight off.”

The club chose River Forks Park in Gainesville, GA to host the first sign dedication because it was an alert by Hall County Parks and Recreation a few weeks after their son’s death that even triggered the idea that Justus could have met the bacteria by visiting the lake.

Rotary District 6910 Representative Chad Bingham and Andy Garrison shown with President Brenda McMillian and the Williams Family.

“A couple of weeks after everything happen, Hall County temporarily closed down the beach at River Forks Park due to high bacteria levels in the water.  It was then a light bulb went off for us” said Williams.  “These signs are meant to help parents have lightbulb moments before their kids get in the water.  We can’t prevent water bacteria, but we can help educate the community about the natural risks associated with swimming in the lake.”

After hearing the struggles that the Williams family was having to try to bring light to their son’s story, the club wanted to help Jeff and his family negotiate the numerous levels of governing bodies around the lake and come up with a plan that would be approved at the county and city level.

Club President Brenda McMillian worked with state officials to get the approved CDC verbiage in regard to potential risks associated with bacteria in water.  These signs relieve the local governing body of litigation and protect all parties involved. 

Signs share the William’s story and ways to find the latest lake testing information.

The next step was to work with a local sign company- Pinnacle Custom Signs – to get a draft of the signage put together that would include a link on the back to the story of Justus Teal Williams and provide a link to the most recent water quality reports from Chattahoochee Riverkeepers.

Finally, we created a layout that included the South Hall Rotary logo and shows Rotary’s commitment to projects that impact the environment and save lives.

“We know as a club that often water quality is something we talk about on an international level.  However, we also know that water quality is something we could tackle in our own backyard,” stated Environmental Project Chair Jerry McClendon. “Our sign project was a way to show support to the Williams family, promote the need for clean lake water, and possibly prevent others from suffering from lake bacteria in the future.”

Butterflies were released during the sign unveiling

Club members unveiled the signs immediately following the ceremony and conducted a yellow butterfly release in honor of the Spread Joy for Justus project. Justus’ favorite color was yellow and the butterflies were a tribute to the family’s mission to do kind things in their son’s name. Learn more about spreading joy for Justus by following the #spreadjoyforjustus hashtag.

South Hall Rotary is incredibly grateful for all the help received by Hall County Parks and Recreation.  Through the assistance of Mike Little and Becky Ruffner, signs are now installed at River Forks Park, Laurel Park, Cedar Creek Reservoir, Wahoo Reservoir, Cherokee Bluffs Park, Williams Mill Park, Aqualand Marina, and Sunrise Cove Marina.

For more information on our project or how to install these signs in your own community, please contact Jeff Williams at jwsouthhall@gmail.com or info@shrotary.org.

For more information on the story, check out the local news coverage:

South Hall Rotary unveils public safety sign honoring Justus Williams

A couple lost their son to an infection after he swam in Lake Lanier. Now, they are trying to raise awareness of harmful bacteria

South Hall Rotary Club encourages safe swimming with new signage

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