PELHAM, GA (WALB) - Governor Nathan Deal made a special appearance in Pelham Thursday, as the city celebrates the opening of a new community complex.
The center is named after Pelham native Donnie Cochran who was the first African-American pilot of the Blue Angels.
It was a packed house at the new Donnie Cochran Community Complex center.
The facility started out as a school, then it became a detention center, now it's a place where the community can come together to not only enjoy, but also to prosper.
The U.S. Navy Color Guard kicked off the event, while the man of honor, Captain Donnie Cochran, witnessed the city's appreciation for his service and his impact on Pelham.
"We're at a phase in our country today that it requires everyone to step up," said Captain Cochran. "And this is one of the ways that I intend to step up and that is to make a difference."
Captain Cochran, who grew up on the farm in Pelham, said he used the values and morals he learned from his South Georgia upbringing to succeed in the U.S. Navy and in life.
Pelham Mayor James Eubanks said it's Captain Cochran's story that symbolizes the progression of this facility.
"This facility needs to be a starting place for people, a starting place for this community," said Mayor Eubanks. "A place for people to learn, come together, move forward."
And with new agreements with Southern Regional Technical College to provide GED classes, and with a local church to begin a daycare facility, this center is already proving its value.
It's a a product of criminal justice reform, according to Governor Nathan Deal.
By decreasing the prison population and reducing prison sentences, this facility is open to provide a service for the community.
"I'm just excited about a community such as this, Pelham, that is able to embrace these reforms by showing that they can put these detention facilities to much better use," said Governor Deal.
And to end the day's ceremony, some inspiring words from a local inspiration.
"There's always something to look forward to," said Captain Cochran. "And the best is yet to come."