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United Way collecting shoeboxes for area homeless

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

United Way of Henry County is collecting shoeboxes as part of a project designed to assist homeless women and children with everyday essentials.

The purpose of the donation drive is to raise the public's awareness of homelessness within the metropolitan Atlanta area.

The shoeboxes are filled in such necessities as deodorant, combs, brushes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bandages, hand towels and travel-size containers of shampoo, lotion and baby wipes that are stuffed in the boxes and donated.

According to Rita Hand, office manager at the McDonough United Way office, items many view as everyday, are a "luxury" to many who of the homeless who receive them.

"Many ... shelters are just night shelters," she said. "So [the homeless] are on the streets during the day."

The Women's Legacy Shoebox Project is currently in its third year with United Way, and its second with the office in McDonough, located at 107 Westridge Industrial Blvd.

Sheri Willis, associate area director for United Way in Henry, Clayton and Butts counties, said the organization hopes to build on last year's campaign, which yielded donations of more than 1,100 shoeboxes in the tri-county area.

"We collected more than we ever expected," Willis said. "[The campaign] was very well accepted by the community. The only reason people donate is because they want to help somebody else. Judging by last year, that must be a very good incentive."

In this year's effort, the McDonough office had collected about 16 shoeboxes as of Friday afternoon, with about 40 donations made in Clayton County, and another 25 in Butts. Willis said many of last year's donations were made at the "last minute," and that she expects the same to be true this year.

"I think a lot of people hold onto [shoeboxes they will donate], or collect them in a group setting," she explained.

The shoeboxes will be delivered to homeless women and children at shelters in all three counties in the region.

Henry shelters scheduled to received donations include Haven House and A Friend's House, both in McDonough. In Clayton County, donations will go to Securus House, Calvary Refuge Center, Rainbow House and Hope Shelter, Inc.

Women and children benefit from the shoebox campaign, both materially and emotionally, said Tawana Tarno, executive director of Calvary Refuge in Forest Park.

"It provides items that [people at the shelter] wouldn't be able to purchase for themselves," Tarno said. "It also makes them feel better about themselves, knowing that someone cared enough to give."

Dana Lemon, a United Way volunteer who works with Women's Legacy, said the shoebox project helps generate support for the organization's efforts, from a key demographic in society.

"This is another way that women can show their support," Lemon added.

Hand said the project also serves as a way for parents to teach valuable lessons to their children about community involvement.

"It's a great way to teach kids to look outside of themselves," Hand said. "There are a lot more homeless people than we think."

Shoebox donations will be accepted through Feb. 8. In addition to the United Way office in McDonough, donations can be made at WorkTec, located at 221 Stockbridge Rd., in Jonesboro, and at the Jackson Progress-Argus, at 129 South Mulberry St., in Jackson.