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Spreading holiday cheer with Thanksgiving baskets

A turkey, and a box filled with all the trimmings to prepare a Thanksgiving meal, were delivered to Sandra and Jesse Bell Tuesday morning by Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell (not related), and Clayton County Senior Services staff members.

"I appreciate them coming out," said Sandra Bell, of Jonesboro. "It helps out a lot during a time like this. We have it hard."

Chairman Bell said the county was able to donate enough funds to the Clayton County Senior Services Aging Program, so that 25 modest-income Clayton County seniors will be able to enjoy a decent meal this holiday season.

"I don't want to see anyone go hungry," he said. "Seniors are number one in my book, followed by the children."

The recipients were selected based on their income, their health, and the absence of any family support, said Joy Hutcherson, case manager for the county's aging program. She said residents began calling for the Thanksgiving boxes as early as September.

The boxes are also given to seniors who participate in the Meals on Wheels program, said Hutcherson. "The Bells happen to be apart of that program." she said.

According to a study by the Meals on Wheels Association of America, in 2009, Georgia was ranked sixth –– out of the ten states reviewed –– in the number of senior citizens at risk of going hungry. The Meals on Wheels program involves the delivery of food to homebound seniors, said Mary Byrd, supervisor for the Meals on Wheels Program. Hot lunches are delivered to seniors five days a week.

Because some of the seniors do not have the necessary equipment to cook the turkeys themselves, Hutcherson said the cooking staff at the Clayton County Senior Services facility will cook 11 out of the 25 turkeys that were delivered to recipients.

She said some of the Thanksgiving boxes were delivered Tuesday and the remainder will be delivered today.

Chairman Bell expressed gratitude to Sam's Club, Wal-Mart, and other local businesses for donating resources to help support the holiday initiative.

Clayton County Senior Services staffers said they hope they will be able to donate 50 Thanksgiving boxes next year.