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Resurrecting a fund-raising tradition

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For 51 years, Clayton County Family Care has been a lifeline to low-income residents in danger of eviction, or having their utilities turned off due to non-payment. Despite their longevity, however, many locals are unaware of the organization's rent-and utility-assistance programs, according to officials with the agency.

By resurrecting a once-popular Rich's Department Store tradition, the Morrow Business and Tourism Association (MBTA), the JCPenney at Southlake Mall, and other civic organizations are hoping to bring attention, and financial support, to one of the county's oldest support organizations ,with a "Fashionata."

The event will be held on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 3 p.m. ,at the Morrow Center, located at 1180 Southlake Circle, Suite 100 in Morrow. Volunteers will model the fall and holiday fashions of JCPenney's Liz Claiborne line, with the proceeds to benefit Clayton County Family Care's rent-and utility-assistance programs.

According to MBTA Executive Director Mike Twomey, the "Fashionata" runway show was started by the now-defunct Rich's Department Store as a fund-raiser for the Marist School in Atlanta. At the height of its popularity, the fashion gala attracted thousands, who came to get a sneak-peak at the department store's latest styles, he said.

"Rich's started it in the late 1960s and continued it throughout the late 1990s," Twomey said. "The school is still there, but Rich's obviously is not. We are trying to resurrect the tradition.

"A lot of people don't realize that charity [Clayton County Family Care] is around, and they provide emergency assistance," he continued. "If someone is about to have their power turned off, and they can demonstrate true need, they can help with that ... If they are about to get evicted, they can help with that. It's to bring awareness to that charity, and [is] also certainly a fund-raiser for them."

Clayton County Family Care Board Chairman Marie Barber said the sour economy has caused an increase in the number of assistance requests. She said more funding is needed to meet the needs of the community.

"We just thank them for doing this fund-raiser," Barber said. "It's important, because it helps us be able to assist needy families in the community. It's hard to meet the need given the economic times ... The organization was set up for low-come families, but now we are seeing middle-income families come in."

Ken Northrop, store manager of the JCPenney at Southlake Mall, said the store hosted a fashion show fund-raiser last year for Clayton County Kinship Care. He said that while Clayton County Family Care's "Fashionata" will not be on the same scale as the Rich's tradition, the program should serve as a "stepping board" for the organization.

"Having the fashion show will make the community more aware of their organization," said Northrop. "Hopefully, the people who see this show will feel compelled to get involved and donate further."

According to Twomey, the Morrow Business and Tourism Association is actively seeking female models of all shapes, ages, and sizes for the "Fashionata." While participants will not be paid, they will receive discounts at JCPenney and copies of the store's annual fashion publication, the "Little Red Book."

Those interested in modeling must register by sending their full name, address, phone number, e-mail address, age, and clothing size to Lauren Singleton at lsingleton@cityofmorrow.com. Model auditions will take place at the Morrow Center on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 10 a.m.

Tickets to the Fashionata can be purchased, in advance, for $12, at the Morrow Tourist Center, located at 6475 Jonesboro Road in Morrow. For more information, call (770) 968-1623.