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Shoeboxes for the homeless
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More than 20,000 decorated shoeboxes filled with toiletry items were collected for the homeless and families in need in this year's United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta Shoebox Project campaign. That's a 2,000-unit increase over last year and the most ever collected during any one campaign.

Out of Rockdale County, 755 shoeboxes were collected and will be donated to families in need with children starting school. About 96 agencies throughout the region serving homeless women and children will distribute the boxes. Altogether, more than 87,150 shoeboxes have been distributed since the annual campaign began in 2006.

“This is simply amazing,” says Milton J. Little, Jr., president of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. “Even with a down economy, gifts continue to increase, which speaks to the compassion and enthusiasm this community shows for our neighbors in need. I want to sincerely thank all the individuals, organizations, volunteers and groups that donated gifts and supported this effort.”

The Shoebox Project ended May 1, and major sponsors included FedEx, WSB-TV, WCLK JAZZ 91.9 and Meritex. Delta Air Lines provided a pair of round-trip tickets for the most creative shoebox.

Taking creative “license,” Shoebox decorating contest winner Alisa Feick and her fiancé created a Camaro shoebox complete with a United Way license plate. “We kept saying, ‘Win or lose, this is going to bring a smile to a child’s face,’ ” says Alisa. “Living in a homeless situation can’t be easy, but we wanted to let a child know that people out here care.” Alisa will use her airline tickets for a honeymoon getaway.

One of this year’s major contributors was Marriott, with more than 4,500 shoebox gifts collected through parties and donations. “Involvement in this initiative really starts with our overall company culture and focus on ‘Spirit to Serve.’ We urged participation, and our associates always come through,” says Danni Williams, general manager of Renaissance Concourse. Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Northside Hospital, Kroger, Comcast and the Fayette County School System were also major contributors, among many others.

Here is a breakdown of shoebox gift donations: Butts, 140; Cherokee, 119; Clayton, 400; Cobb, 1,873; Coweta; 300; DeKalb; 1,600; Douglas, 400; Fayette, 1,450; Fulton, 3,900; Gwinnett, 1,400; Henry, 300; Paulding, 10; Rockdale, 755; FedEx pickups, 5,798; miscellaneous, 1,718.