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Posted: August 23, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Newton County homeless shelter to hold fundraiser

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 The Garden of Gethsemane homeless shelter, located off Turner Lake Circle, is in need of donations to help pay for the center’s basic operating expenses, so Director Rev. Clara Lett is hosting a fundraising dinner and event-filled evening at the Church of Covington on Aug. 29 at 6 p.m.

 Lett said she recently found out the shelter would not be receiving an Emergency Shelter Grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which would have added about $10,000 to the shelter’s budget for this year. As a result, Lett is hoping to raise the money through the fundraiser.

 The Rev. Sam Perryman, who owns his own hair products company in Conyers, will speak at the event, and there will also be musical and dance performances, Lett said. Dinner will be catered by Wood Family Catering Services and will consist of smothered chicken, rotisserie chicken, green beans, medley rice, rolls and assorted desserts.

 Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased by calling the shelter at (770) 787-8519 or by visiting the 7151 Turner Lake Circle location. So far Lett said the shelter has sold more than a 100 tickets and she hopes to sell 300 total.

 Lett said the money will be used for basic operating needs, including plumbing expenses, pest control services, an environmental health permit to allow the shelter to serve food, paper costs, gasoline and transportation and appliances and dishware.

 She said so many unexpected costs pop up, like having to pay for the environmental health permits and classes just like restaurants.

 However, Lett said the community has been wonderfully supportive.

 "Being in this community has been wonderful, you should see all the donors that have helped us over the years. People are coming to our rescue, with blankets, pillows, food and volunteers. We’re so thankful," she said.

 Lett said the Wood family gave her a deal on the catering and she said Lendmark Financial Services is paying to rent the tables for the event and will provide volunteers to help with the benefit dinner, and at the shelter over the next couple of months.

 Even if the dinner is a success, Lett said she still needs more volunteers and can always use more donations, whether monetary or consisting of food and other supplies. In particular, the shelter is in need of evening volunteers to answer the phones and help people who come in and need to stay for the night. She said any amount of time that volunteers could give would be greatly appreciated.

 The shelter’s programs are still getting up and running, with parenting and literacy classes already under way. Lett is also working on partnering with DeKalb Technical College for job training, and is waiting on the Ready to Read software to start up a computer literacy program. She’s also trying to get an on-site counselor to help the residents.

 So far, a couple of the shelter’s residents have gotten jobs, including a young lady who was recently hired at Krystal.

 Because of the economy, Lett has extended the time period residents are allowed to stay at the shelter from three weeks to 30 days.

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