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Charity on minds of business owners during holidays

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Anita Johnson, owner of Upscale Fashions consignment shop in Stockbridge, said gratitude is one reason her store is engaged in efforts to benefit local charities this Christmas.

Johnson is currently gathering donations during the "12 days of Christmas" drive, sponsored by Upscale Fashions.

"The community has supported my store for 10 years," said Johnson, whose store is located at 5029 N. Henry Blvd. "This is my way of giving back."

The store is among a number of local businesses and organizations donating to charities during the holiday season.

In addition to monetary donations, Johnson said people can bring items to be sold at the store.

Ten percent of the money the store generates during the 12 days will go toward a different charity each day.

This is the sixth year Johnson has donated to local charities through her business. The organizations that will benefit this year include Haven House, the American Cancer Society, Prevent Child Abuse Henry County, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Connecting Henry, A Friend's House, the Henry Medical Center Auxiliary, Feed My People, the Police Benevolent Foundation, United Way, the Henry County Humane Society and Noah's Ark.

Robin Jones, of Prevent Child Abuse, said she was surprised, but grateful, to hear of Johnson's plans to include her organization, which relies on grants, donations and fund-raisers, in the list of those that will receive money from the store this year.

"We wouldn't be able to operate without community support," Jones said. "I think it's absolutely wonderful that [Johnson] is willing to do that."

Diane Smith, assistant to the director at Noah's Ark, shared Jones' sentiments regarding Johnson's generosity. She said the drive is "another example of the community pulling together."

She said the importance of donations should not be underestimated. "Any donation to Noah's Ark does make a dent," she said. "If everyone thought their little dent couldn't make a difference, and no one gave, then we couldn't continue in the manner that we do now."

At Bible Baptist Christian School in Hampton, donations are being made as part of a local restaurant's mission to give the gift of food during the holiday season. The school, located at 2780 Mount Carmel Road, in Hampton is working in partnership with the Chick-fil-A at 11161 Tara Blvd. in Lovejoy, to provide $5 meals to needy people in Henry and Clayton counties.

School administrator Timothy Lee said the drive teaches a valuable lesson to students at the school. "I think it's important for our students to think of someone other than themselves, rather than just receive and take during Christmas," he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the school had collected nearly enough money for 121 meals, surpassing their goal of 100 meals. The drive will continue through Friday. The meals will be delivered, before Christmas, to charities including Rainbow House in Morrow, the Salvation Army, A Friend's House in McDonough, and Clayton County Court-Appointed Special Advocates.

The charity effort was begun by the restaurant's owner-operator, Tracy Fleming. He said the school is one of several local venues the store works with to feed the needy in the community. Last year, he said, the store provided meals to 1,200 people during the holidays.

In addition, students at Bible Baptist, last year, gave Chick-fil-A meals to residents at locations including Mount Carmel Assisted Living in Hampton.

This year, he said, the restaurant has a goal of providing 2,000 meals through the project. "The project can be as broad as you want it to be, or it can be very personal," he said.

He said he wants to use the store's charity efforts to be a positive influence. "We believe in, literally, being a source of light in the community," he said. "We don't want to just be consumed with income."