Residents of the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter got several early Christmas presents, when a group of local residents put together a Christmas celebration for the residents.
The event was conceived and organized by members of the Covington Kiwanis Club when they heard the shelter wouldn't be able to afford a Christmas celebration, and as word spread several other community groups and residents joined the effort.
The brass ensemble from Eastside High School provided Christmas music, the Eastside and Alcovy high school key clubs provided volunteers, Kohl's donated children's books, Walmart donated money to purchase gingerbread house kits, professional Coca-Cola Santa Claus Wayne Chase donated his time, members from Belmont Baptist Church in Conyers donated toys and other local residents gave of their time and money. Blankets, clothes, coats and shoes were also collected.
Covington Papa John's and Domino's and Lucy's Wings and Things in Newborn donated food, while Stevie B's and Mama Maria's Italian Grill offered deeply discounted food and members from Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Oxford baked desserts.
Kiwanian Donna Sneed spearheaded the effort because she saw people in need.
"That's the true meaning of Christmas, giving, and having that fellowship with other people, getting together with he community and letting people know there people in our community who need help," Sneed said. "This was the best Christmas ever for me and my family. We gave back to community, met new friends and saw how different people's lives were touched."
Sneed hopes to organize something similar next year.
In addition to the celebration, homeless shelter board member Sam Ramsey wrote a $500 check to the homeless shelter.
"This means a lot and brings the Christmas spirit into this place," said the Rev. Clara Lett, the shelter's director. "People here are at a low place in live and don't have a place to call home, and this lets them know that it's OK and things will get better."
The homeless shelter has struggled financially this year because local donations have slowed up and a state grant has been delayed, Lett said. She thanked the Julia A. Porter Untied Methodist Church which paid the shelter's November utility bill. Monthly utility bills are around $4,500 in the winter for the three buildings located off Turner Lake Circle, Lett said.
However, there was some other good news, as a handful of residents were hired for manufacturing jobs recently by local industries Nisshinbo and Solo Cup, Lett said.