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Community Christmas exceeds expectations

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Henry County Board of Commissioners Chairman Elizabeth "BJ" Mathis speaks to participants of the 2009 Community Christmas for Needy Families Program. Mathis gave her remarks during a recap luncheon at the Connecting Henry, Inc., office in McDonough.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Henry County Board of Commissioners Chairman Elizabeth "BJ" Mathis speaks to participants of the 2009 Community Christmas for Needy Families Program. Mathis gave her remarks during a recap luncheon at the Connecting Henry, Inc., office in McDonough.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Organizers believe a record number of needy families were served by a record number of organizations and volunteers.

The out-pouring of community support came during the 2009 Community Christmas for Needy Families Program.

The program provided Christmas gifts and assistance to some 2,300 needy families in 2008, who may not have otherwise been able to afford Christmas, according to Denese Rodgers, executive director of Connecting Henry, Inc., the non-profit, social-services organization that manages the annual program.

At last count, Rodgers reported, this year's program has served 2,200 families. "The numbers are still coming in [however]," she said. "We think it's going to go up to 3,000 when we get our numbers in.

"It was a really tough year," said Rodgers, who believes the troubled economy has produced many more needy families than in years past.

"We have a record number of middle-income families that are becoming trapped in poverty," she said in a previous interview with Henry Daily Herald. "It's the combination of not just the economy, but we are finally reaping the results of decisions that were not beneficial -- credit cards and [poor] debt management."

Rodgers said she plans to address those, and other economic issues facing the community, over the next six months. "We will switch gears at this point," she said, "and we will start working on economic development."

On Friday, Connecting Henry hosted a recap luncheon for participants in the Community Christmas Program. Among the guests was Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis, chairman of the Henry County Board of Commissioners.

"We're blessed with good people, with big hearts, who just want to reach out to all our neighbors," Mathis told the luncheon guests.

The guests included several representatives of organizations that took part in the Community Christmas Program.

"This is one of the better things that we have going on right now," said Bob Van Dunk, a volunteer with the U.S. Marine's Toys for Tots Program.

Van Dunk, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Marines and Army, said he got involved with Community Christmas last November through the toy program.

"Every time you get to do something that benefits somebody, it makes you feel good," said the retired Marine. "This is what we are to our country; we are 'always faithful.' To the Henry County community and to our country, we say, 'Semper Fi.'"

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On the net:

Connecting Henry:

www.connectinghenry.org