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Twas the night before Christmas
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Dear Editor: ’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the Covington Housing Authority Complex, all of the staff, volunteers and residents gathered around just to say thanks to the multitude of sponsors, funders, collaborative partners, donors and supporters of this year’s 2008 Christmas On Alcovy and the many programs, community events and day-to-day operations that have made it possible for the Sojourner Truth Observational Study Hometel Inc. to declare an end to a successful year, in spite of the decrease in funding and financial support in a time of recession and financial crisis. Although the beginning of the year started off with a separation of one of our primary sponsors, thank God that the York Children’s Foundation of Pennsylvania showed up with the first donation that made it possible to kick off the after school program with approximately 50 children. As the year proceeded, more sponsors began to heed the need to support a much needed program in the community, a program that lived up to the slogan "leaving no child behind."

Through the collaborative efforts of the surrounding sponsors and contributors such as the Washington Street Community Center, Newton County Parks and Recreation Department, The Literacy Coalition, Newton County Reads, Ficquett Elementary School, Cousins Middle School, Conyers Police Department, The Newton County D.A.R.E. Program, General Mills and the Oxford College Community, we were able to increase our hours of operation for the after-school program from two days a week to four and from four hours to eight, enabling us to include middle and high school students. As the year progressed, we were fortunate to provide a community block party and summer camp program to at least 100 school-aged children, with parent volunteers and community based partners who provided the summer food program which provided nourishment for those who participated. More sponsors saw a need and jumped on the sleigh — Covington Cooks, Covington Ford, Zaxby’s, Snapping Shoals, Wal-Mart, Food Depot, Applebee’s, Dairy Queen, Bell’s Grocery, Checkers and even Mrs. Green with her Hawaiian luau. Then all of a sudden there arose such a clatter during the Lights on Afterschool program. We ran out of funding and were forced to decrease our hours and services to the children. No more full-course meals and back to snacks once more.

The director had visions of discontinuing the program, but with the formation of a new board of directors, a month-long interview running on Catch 22, Vi03, Kiss 104 and 97.5 F.M. and an interview on the Hot Seat with the People’s TV Station in Atlanta, the power of God would not allow her to give up. There arose an unexpected gift from God, through the Living Stones Christian Fellowship Ministry, which provided a financial donation large enough to carry us to the end of November with the help of Solid Rock Food pantry, which provided enough donations of food and snacks to ensure that no one would go hungry. New Birth provided volunteers. So she signed up for the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots to continue to serve the community and the children. Lo and behold, the guardian angels began to show up on behalf of the children who needed to celebrate a holiday like never before, in spite of the recession and all of the people who would either loose their jobs, their businesses and almost their minds. One by one agencies and organizations saw the need to help, as businesses and sponsors signed up to host toy drives and fundraisers to assist in providing toys and gifts for approximately 157 deserving families, which included both homeless and foster children, amounting to well over 400 people.

Then out on the lawn, there arose such sponsors as Chick-fil-A, Stevie B’s, America’s Self Storage and John Miles Chevrolet who provided a van to pick up the toys in Marietta, Precision Cut Barber Shop who donated the funding for gas and food provided just to keep the volunteer angels from DFACS and other surrounding communities working through the night. Then with a twinkling of an eye, Sam’s Club called out of the clear blue sky with another cash donation big enough to carry the after-school program through the end of the year. By this time, all were excited and destined to reach their goal of serving as many families as the toys would reach. But still there was not enough to service the variety of children on the list.

Then what to our wondering eyes should appear, but several kind elves from The Covington News carrying bags filled with toys and gifts that were used to keep filling the registrations that had been received since October. But there was still not enough, so they went back to the drawing board and came back with more. Then what to our wondering eyes should appear, more bags with more good things inside compliments of the members of the leadership 2008 class of Newton County Community. Then a call from the Salvation Army, who wanted to share some of their overflow, made it possible for the Sojourner Truth Observation Study Hometel Inc. volunteers to complete all of the orders, just in time for the doors to open by 9 a.m. Dec. 19 and begin distributing all the blessings provided by God. In case we failed to make mention of your name, donation, sponsorship or anything that you provided on our behalf, please charge it to our heads and not to our hearts. We thank God for the opportunity to be used as a vessel to serve his people through the many avenues that he has allowed us to offer this year. You will hear us exclaim, as we close for the year, Merry Christmas to all and have a blessed, anointed and spirit-filled New Year.

P.S. If you would like to be added to our wish list for 2009, you may go to our Web site to make a monetary donation, stop by the Covington Housing Authority at 5160 Alcovy Road to volunteer or contact the director Ms. Lillian Y. Bittaye at (770) 570-8995. Remember we are a non-profit, tax exempt, tax deductible 501C3 grassroots organization that speaks nothing but the truth. We are the Sojourner Truth Observational Study Hometel Inc.