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New Wal-Mart ready to launch
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While the public won't get a chance to see inside the new Wal-Mart Supercenter on Ga. Highway 142 until 8 a.m. today, over a hundred Wal-Mart employees and their families got a chance to peek into the 203,077 square-foot store Sunday evening.

Store manager Bert Darazs said the purpose of the evening was to allow Wal-Mart associates a chance to see and enjoy the store themselves ahead of the hectic schedule expected once the store opens.

"This way they can look around and have their family look around," Darazs said.

In honor of the store's grand opening, close to $20,000 was donated by Wal-Mart to several area non-profits and churches Sunday night.

Receiving $5,000 checks from Wal-Mart were the Washington Street Community Center, a local non-profit that provides after-school care and tutoring to children, the Rainbow Community Center - the county's only homeless shelter which provides room and board to approximately 30 people at any given time and the Oxford Institute for Environmental Education which gives instruction to area teachers on how to improve the teaching of science.

The Covington Lions Club received $500 from Wal-Mart for the building of a new clubhouse and the Covington Police Department received $500 to go to the department's annual Fuzz Run.

"We always try to find charities that we can support," Darazs said of the contributions.

Also receiving checks were Mount Zion Baptist Church which received a check for $2,000 to go to the building of a new church floor and Rock Creek Baptist Church and Greater Mosley Baptist Church which both received checks of $350 for their building funds.

Four long-time employees of Wal-Mart were honored Sunday night. Brenda Carter, Kaylon Garcia, Joyce Harper and Susan Webb have all been employed with Wal-Mart for 25 years.

After the distribution of checks and awards, friends and family of Wal-Mart employees partook in a large buffet prepared by Wal-Mart while they were serenaded by two local performers, Newton County gospel singer Euclid Gray and Atlanta musician Melvin Banks.

Darazs, who used to be the store manager of the Wal-Mart in the Martin's Crossing Shopping Center on U.S. Highway 278, will continue his store manager duties at the Supercenter.

Darazs said of the new store which has hardwood floors and a color scheme of blue and green, "This is probably the prettiest store I've ever worked at."

According to Darazs the new Wal-Mart employs 384 people, 70 percent of whom he estimates are full-time employees.