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The season of charity

By Ed Brock

Qualetta Smith is getting paid to ring a bell by a Salvation Army kettle, but it's not just a job.

"I wanted to help out my community," the 17-year-old Hampton girl said. "I want to help out those who are less fortunate than I."

This year the Salvation Army and other charities are hoping the community will help them help others.

The Salvation Army kettle drive began in earnest, which is to say basically seven days a week, on Nov. 19 but they also put the red kettles out on the weekend of Nov. 12 and 13, Jonesboro Salvation Army Corps Commander Sgt. Brent Nevers said.

"We do that to get some extra funds for Thanksgiving," Nevers said.

On Thursday the Jonesboro Salvation Army hosted a community Thanksgiving dinner paid for by the kettle money raised so far. As of Friday the program had grossed around $15,000, but some of that will have to go to cover expenses such as the salaries of hired bell-ringers like Smith.

"As many people who have volunteered (to man kettles) it's not enough to cover 25 spots for 10 hours a day for 33 days," Nevers said.

Nevers has set his goal for this year's collections at $100,000. And he's optimistic that he'll achieve that goal despite the fact that the top two spots for kettle collections in his area, the Target stores in Morrow and Fayetteville, will not be participating in the program this year. The kettles will be placed at stores like Wal-Mart, Sears, Kroger and K-Mart at locations in Jonesboro, Morrow and Lake City.

He plans to work those sites aggressively and to be creative, Nevers said. For example, he tried putting some kettles at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport but they didn't gather too much money. People carrying suitcases don't usually stop to find some loose change or bills for the kettle, Nevers said, just as people running into a store from a rainstorm are less likely to give.

But Smith said the customers at the Sam's Wholesale Club on Jonesboro Road near Morrow had been pretty generous last Wednesday.

"It's been a pretty busy day," Smith said.

Nevers said he's very thankful to the store managers who have helped him out with the kettle drive, the money from which goes to cover basically all of the Jonesboro corps' operations. Indeed, he spent $1,100 of the money at the same Sam's Club where Smith was working when he needed food for the Thanksgiving dinner.

"This money goes right back to the community and sometimes it goes right back to the stores," Nevers said.

Along with a variety of programs to help needy people in Clayton and Fayette counties, the Jonesboro Salvation Army is in the middle of its traditional "Angel Tree" program that collects toys for needy children.

Each child is assigned to a sponsor who is given the child's basic information such as age, sex, clothing sizes and the kinds of toys the child likes. The sponsor then buys toys for their "angel."

So far 1,200 angels have been assigned this year but 100 are left, said Carolyn Noel who is overseeing the program. They also expect to have about 20 percent of the assigned cases to become "lost angels," or those whose sponsors never return with gifts. So the Army collects extra presents to take care of them.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the kettle drive can go to the Salvation Army offices at 130 Spring Street or call (770) 603-6258. Press extension 6 to talk to Noel about the Angel Tree program.

Here are some other charities seeking help this year:

Calvary Refuge Homeless Shelter in Forest Park is in need of funds for its operational costs, said the shelter's spokeswoman Tawana Tarno.

"We appreciate all that's come in, but we can always use more," Tarno said. "We're trying to make it through to February when one of our other grants comes through."

Call (404) 361-5309 for information on donating to the shelter.

A recent fire at the Rainbow House shelter for abused and neglected children has forced the shelter to close its doors for at least a month. The closing will cost the shelter around $50,000 in income it receives in per diem reimbursements from the Department of Human Resources, said Rainbow House Director Phil Kouns previously.

The annual "Festival of Trees and Lights" will be held at Atlanta Beach in the Clayton County International Park near Jonesboro from Dec. 2 to 6 to benefit the shelter. Also, the 12th Annual Rainbow House Telethon will be held from 3 to 10 p.m., broadcasting from Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale on Comcast Cable.

Call Rainbow House at (770) 478-6905 or go to its Web site at www.rainbowhouseinc.org for information on making donations.

Also, during the telethon Riverdale City Hall will be open to accept donations of items from a list of needs for the shelter. Call city hall (770) 997-8989 ext. 5 or Rainbow House for information on the list of needed items.

Southlake Cove Apartments at 7509 Jonesboro Road near Jonesboro will be a drop-off location for Operation Noel that collects non-perishable food items and new, unwrapped gifts for children in the community. The apartment office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information and directions call (770) 471-4285.