Circle of Care Innovation Center director visits Valley Lions Club

Published 10:30 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

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VALLEY — Markedrick Dawson talked about the Innovation Center he heads at this week’s meeting of the Valley Lions Club. The Innovation Center operates through the Chambers County Circle of Care Center for Families, and Dawson is its director.

Dawson said the Circle’s location in Valley Medical Park is an ideal place to work with people who are thinking about having a business of their own.
“It’s a good location to talk with the area’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” he said. “We have a business incubator program there to help new businesses. It’s like a young bird hatching in a nest and then gaining the strength it takes to fly off on its own. We want it to flourish.”

Searchlight Counseling is one of the Innovation Center’s success stories. 

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“They started off with just a few clients and now have more than 40,” Dawson said. “They are ready to go out on their own. They have outgrown the building and need a place of their own.”

The Innovation Center and Searchlight Counseling will be moving into the former office of Dr. Joseph Downs, who retired at the end of 2022. 

“We’ve gotten a $20,000 marketing grant that will help us move in,” Dawson said.

The office is located on 48th Street a short distance away from the Circle of Care.

Dawson has had experience in running a new business and is eager to work with people who want to make that move.

“If you know someone who wants to have their own business, send them our way,” he told Lions Club members.

He can be reached at or (334) 768-4091.

Dawson said that Searchlight works with underprivileged families and those who need mental health counseling.

 “They have affordable rates for those without insurance,” he said.

Searchlight has two licensed counselors and four part-time employees, two of whom are working on their licensing. They are also assisted by some Auburn University interns.

“There’s a nationwide problem with the way mental health is being treated,” said club member Sam Bradford. “The jails are filled with people who need treatment, not incarceration.”

Dawson said the first step in starting a new business was to have a plan. There has to be a location with work space and a receptionist to greet people who are entering the building.

“Searchlight is our main client, and we are trying to get the word out about them,” Dawson said. “We want to work with anyone who wants to start a business. There are some retired people out there who may want to start one. We’d like to work with them. They have a lifetime of experience that can serve them well in starting a new business. They don’t have to have a grand plan. It may be a situation that they are having a hard time making ends meet with their retirement check. A new small business could help them.”

Dawson said the Innovation Center is taking both walk-ins and referrals. “Right now, we just want to get the word out about what we are doing,” he said. “This was started a few years ago but got sidelined by Covid. We are trying to get it going again.”

Dawson has been at the Circle since last spring. He has previous experience in running a trucking business. 

“This is the place where I grew up, and I love it,” he said. “I want to give back for what the community has done for me.”

Dawson is a graduate of Valley High. He’s the son of Gretchen Holloway, a retired educator.