By Ed Brock
As the namesake vegetables are ripening on the vine the plans for this year's Tomato Sandwich Party have been set.
For the second year the party will benefit the Good Shepherd Clinic in Morrow that is dedicated to providing healthcare to people without health insurance.
"We'd like to get bigger so we can treat more people," said L.C. Thomas, secretary of the Good Shepherd board of directors.
The party is scheduled for July 10. The goal is to raise $18,000, said the Rev. Stephen Cook with the First Baptist Church of Morrow that is a co-founder of the clinic.
Currently the clinic, located behind the church on Murphy Drive, is only open on Mondays when Dr. Thomas Kelley can donate his time. Eventually Cook and the other members of the board hope to increase the clinic's annual operating budget to around $150,000 so the board can hire a part-time doctor and a part-time nurse or medical assistant, Cook said.
Then they can stay open five days a week and treat more than the average of 14 patients they see each Monday.
"Currently we turn away 100 patients a week," Cook said.
The party will be at Wood's Forest Park home at 5676 Sequoia Drive from 5 to 8 p.m. A $10 donation is suggested but people can pay whatever they want, Wood 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.
Last year the party raised $13,000 and a little over 200 people came.
"We'll have slightly more than that this year, I think," Wood said.
Once again the "Jonesmen" gospel quartet from Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Lake City will perform at the party.
"They've performed at every tomato sandwich party since 1976," Wood said.
The clinic, which has been in operation since 2000, 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.