Lake Country residents seemed to embrace the true meaning of Christmas in 2021, with prevalent and generous gift-giving and assistance for struggling families. Georgia Parenting Project, Inc., based out of Eatonton, is one of those 501(c)3 organizations that helped a surprising number of people compared to its small size.
“Most of our clients we serve are between Eatonton and Milledgeville, and we had hundreds of presents and supplies dropped off for them this year,” said Georgette Craig, director of Georgia Parenting Project.
She said the volunteers spent six weeks organizing, picking up, sorting, and boxing all the items donated for children, which they delivered to more than 100 recipients. “We wrapped and packaged them all and delivered them ourselves, dressed up like elves. It was extremely exhausting, but a lot of fun, too.
“We have convinced children all over Lake Country that we are Santa’s elves. And we are!” Georgette continued. “We take all the love and support of this community and hit the streets going to children’s homes, talking to them about our work with the toys and make sure their parents’ or grandparents’ needs are met for the season.
“I even spent the better part of an hour after Christmas being quizzed by a young man about all the aspects of my job with Santa. It’s quite uplifting to bring so many people and families gifts of toys, personal care items, furniture, linens, food, and kind words. I love my work and it has spread like wildfire around the lake this season.”
The goal of Georgia Parenting Project is to connect parents and elderly people in need of support with local community resources. “It takes giving from the hearts of others to form a partnership in parenting,” Georgette noted.
The Project helps people all year long, obtaining or providing food and pet food, furniture, assistance with utilities, transportation to medical appointments, and repairs to homes or appliances to parents/grandparents with a child living in the household, and elderly or disabled people. No need is too big or too small, whether it’s a package of diapers, a box of laundry detergent, clothing, funds for a kidney transplant, or help finding a job or childcare, Georgia Parenting Project is ready to lend a helping hand.
“We provide pet food to the elderly because we’ve had some who were feeding their pets before they’d feed themselves and they were going without food so their pet could eat,” she explained. “The first person we helped needed a wheelchair and a new floor in the kitchen, and we got both for him and had his utilities turned back on. I actually picked him up and drove him to the social security office to get the assistance he qualified for but wasn’t getting,” she added.
Georgia Parenting Project’s main source of funds comes from the annual boat parade on Lake Sinclair. The 2021 parade was held Saturday, Dec. 11, and brought in more than $1,700 in spite of inclement weather. The parade culminated with a surprise visit from Santa and Scrooge for all the children. Peggy and Denise Fondren founded the boat parade a couple of years ago, and the Lake Sinclair residents enthusiastically support it with their participation.
Georgia Butts Barbecue restaurant also supports the Project by donating all the proceeds from its annual Polar Plunge, usually held in February on Lake Oconee. Georgia Parenting Project also is a grant recipient of Tri-County EMC’s Operation Round Up program. And TCH Watersports and H2O Adventures owners Chad and Jessica Hudgins provide their facilities as a drop off point for all the Christmas gift donations.
The nonprofit’s volunteers are too many to count. Trying to provide an idea of the number, Georgette listed a ladies club, a motorcycle group, employees and groups at the University of Georgia, and individuals and groups from all over Lake Country and beyond, including Union Point and Athens. “They come from everywhere,” she summarized.
For more information, check out The Georgia Parenting Project, Inc. on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call or text 404-590-9581. Donations can be sent via paypal, cashapp, or messenger pay, or cash, check, or items may be dropped off at H2O Adventures on the corner of Pea Ridge Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
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Article by Lynn Hobbs, featured in the January-February 2022 issue of Lakelife magazine.