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Annual Tradition: Clayton Rotarians assemble holiday fruit baskets

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Nearly 20 Clayton County Rotary Club members, and a couple of members of Friends of Clayton County, gathered at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro on Thursday to joke with each other, discuss their lives, and to assemble 360 fruit baskets

They set up tables in a "U" shape, in an activity room at the senior center, with some Rotarians putting grapefruit, tangerines, bananas, and red and green apples in baskets on one side of the room. Another group of Rotarians was at the table at the back of the room, putting candy canes, chocolate mints and Christmas cards made by local children in the baskets.

As the baskets made their way to the table opposite the fruit line, yet another group of Rotarians, and a pair of Friends of Clayton County members, bagged the baskets and tied them up with red or green ribbons for distribution.

The assembling of fruit baskets is an annual tradition for the local Rotarians and has been undertaken by the club for decades. The baskets are made each year for local senior citizens, and abused women and children, according to Clayton County Rotary Club President Mike Twomey.

"This started about 40 years ago, and they used to only make them for local senior citizens," Twomey said. "Now, it's morphed into us giving some to the local abused women's and children's shelters, as well ... It's a traditional Yuletide thing. It's not just some sweet cake. It's something nutritious."

David Enniss, a Rotarian and the executive director of Clayton County Family Care, Inc., said 250 of the baskets will stay at the Griswell Center for people who pass through the facility over the next week. He said the remaining baskets will be distributed evenly between Rainbow House, a children's shelter, Securus House, a shelter for battered women, and the county's Meals on Wheels recipients.

Joan Boozman, a member of Friends of Clayton County, said the organization, which assists people who do not have family that can visit them, will help deliver some of the Meals on Wheels baskets.

"Their faces just light up when they get these baskets," Boozman said as she tied a red ribbon around a bagged fruit basket. "It's so rewarding to be able to reach out, and put a smile on someone's face."

Rotarian Susan Ingle said members of the club look forward to making the baskets each year, because it is an opportunity to get together and enjoy each other's company.

"It's the being together and sharing our lives with each other," Ingle said. "Everybody loves to do this because it is for a good cause. It's a joyous time for everybody. You don't see a sad face in there."