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Tomato Sandwich party to benefit good cause

By Ed Brock

Far too often, Good Shepherd Clinic volunteer Carol Hawkins can offer little more than her attention to the people who call the clinic in need of medical care.

At least that seems to help a little, 59-year-old Hawkins of Jonesboro said.

"A lot have said I was the first person to listen to them for more than five minutes," Hawkins said.

Currently the clinic, dedicated to helping those without medical insurance, can only see patients on one day a week. That's why former Georgia state legislator and member of the Good Shepherd Clinic's board of directors Jim Wood will host another Tomato Sandwich Party to bring the clinic closer to its goal of being open five days a week.

The party will be held this Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Wood's home at 5676 Sequoia Drive in Forest Park. Those who come are asked to make a $10 donation though they can pay whatever they want.

Last year the party raised $15,000 and this year's goal is $18,000, said the Rev. Stephen Cook with the First Baptist Church of Morrow, a sponsor of the clinic. Cook said the clinic, open only on Mondays when Dr. Thomas Kelley can volunteer his time, turns away 100 patients a week.

"Knowing the political history of the event and the fact that we're going to be 10 days away from the primaries we hope there will be a good turnout of people who want to meet candidates running for local office," Cook said.

Hawkins said she'll be there.

"I wouldn't miss it. We had fun last year," Hawkins said.

Hawkins has been volunteering at the clinic, located on Murphy Drive behind the First Baptist Church, since it opened in 2000. She said she is primarily a patient representative, though she is also kept busy keeping the clinic's pharmacy in order.

She got involved because she is a member of Cook's congregation.

"I had no office experience and no medical experience when I started. I have learned it all since then," Hawkins said.

Wood and his wife Martha started holding the Tomato Sandwich Party in the mid-1970s as a political fundraiser. Guests have included former governors George Busbee and Zell Miller, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Georgia, and current state Sen. Terrell Starr, D-Forest Park.

Before last year's party to benefit the clinic the Woods had not hosted a tomato sandwich party at their house since 1993. However, they've had other TSPs at other locations and they hand out their sandwiches at every Taste of Clayton event at Stately Oaks in Jonesboro.

The Good Shepherd board handles the preparations, and that helps a lot, Martha Wood said.

"I love to have people if somebody else does the preparation," Wood said.

Once again the "Jonesmen" gospel quartet from Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Lake City will perform at the party. Also, local author Joe Dabney will be on hand to autograph copies of his book "Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread and Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking." Dabney will also donate a portion of his sales of the book to the clinic.

Also, Wood's son Chris Wood will be autographing copies of his book "Clayton County: Reflections of a Crescent Jewel."

The clinic also receives funding from the Clayton County Community Foundation, the Presbyterian Church of Greater Atlanta and local churches and civic clubs.

Most of the funds that are raised at the party are needed for general operating expenses, primarily medicine.

The guests of honor this year will be Bruce Lucia, president of the Atlanta Division for Kroger grocery stores and Randy Waters, zone manager for Kroger, Thomas said.

"They have been a very good corporate sponsor, Thomas said.

Also, for the first time the clinic is selling Kroger Gift Cards in the amount of $20, $50 and $100. People who buy the cards can use them to buy anything at a Kroger store up to the amount of the card, and then 5 percent of the amount of purchase goes to the clinic.

The cards are for sale at the clinic or the churches that sponsor the clinic, Thomas said. They can be bought with check or, for cards of $50 or more, with a credit card.

Also, on Sept. 18 the clinic will hold its inaugural family bicycle ride fundraiser. For more information on that call the clinic at (770) 968-1310.

Everybody will get to make his or her own sandwich at Wood's party. Some people like to add onions, some like Miracle Whip more than mayonnaise.

"No two are alike," Wood said.

He likes just a tomato with lots of salt, mayonnaise and bread only.

"I'm a purist," Wood said.

Call (770) 960-8494 for more information and directions to the party.