By Joel Hall
Like a well-oiled machine, members of the Clayton County Rotary Club met at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro to assemble baskets of fruit for the needy.
The baskets, which have been distributed by the club for more than 30 years, will help sustain the elderly, physically and mentally disabled, and victims of abuse in the county.
On Tuesday morning, using an assembly-line method, 25 Rotarians and volunteers assembled 380 baskets in a matter of hours. David Enniss, a member of the club and chairman of the project, said the baskets will be distributed to seniors at the Griswell and Shelnutt senior centers, children staying at the Rainbow House, women in several local shelters for battered women, and people receiving food from the Meals on Wheels program.
"This project was started many years ago," said Enniss. "A lot of these people have families, but they may spend the holidays alone. It's really an effort of the club to say Merry Christmas to the community."
The baskets contained nutritious items such as oranges, grapefruit, bananas and other fruits, as well as seasonal candies. In addition, each basket contained a holiday card, hand crafted by children who attended the city of Morrow's "Christmas in the Park" event earlier this month.
Kiran Shailendra, manager of the Griswell Senior Center, said the Clayton County Rotary Club has religiously assembled fruit baskets during her 11-year tenure. She said the seniors who receive them are always appreciative.
"A lot of them live by themselves," said Shailendra. "A lot of them are also on very limited incomes. The thought of receiving something ... it's uplifting for them.
"People who don't come [to the center] regularly, they come to receive these [baskets]," Shailendra continued. "It lets them know that someone is thinking about them."
Pam Ferguson, Clayton County Probate Court Judge, said this will be the first time participants in the Clayton Visiting Friends program will receive baskets. Established only six months ago, the program arranges volunteers to visit adults who are unable to fully care for themselves.
"The probate court deals with the guardianship of adult wards," said Ferguson. "If they can't take care of themselves, we assign a guardian.
"These are the people who tend to be forgotten," Ferguson continued. "They see the hustle and bustle around them, but they are not a part of it. [The fruit basket program] lets them know that people care about them, especially around Christmas."
Enniss said the fruit basket program is not only a time for helping the needy, but also a time of camaraderie for Rotary members.
"Rotary is a presence in the community, and we care about the people," said Enniss. "This is a way of contributing something that helps people and makes us feel good."