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Volunteer group gets state grant

COVINGTON - Hands On Newton has been awarded a $10,000 Hands On Georgia State Challenge Grant, it was recently announced.

The grant must be matched locally, bringing the total to $20,000. The Newton County Community Partnership will work with the organization to get matching funds, which are usually obtained through corporate and individual donations, Hands On Newton Executive Director Doug Bolton said.

The money will go toward paying operating expenses, including the salary of Bolton, who is a part-time employee.

Hands On Newton helps volunteers match their skills and interests with community projects.

To date, the organization has engaged more than 1,000 volunteers in large, one-time service projects such as this year's MLK Day of Service and a playground build at the Covington Family YMCA's new outdoor center.

"It's a two-way street. Sometimes we get people saying they want to volunteer, and we try to link them with a project that suits their talents. Sometimes organizations come to us to say we have a project and need help completing it," Bolton said.

Ongoing service projects include community clean-ups, tutoring services and the recent planting of two community gardens. The gardens will be harvested in late spring, with the food given to the Newton County Community Food Pantry, the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter and Newton County Senior Services.

Students from local high schools are involved in the project, which is also being used to supplement agriculture and botany classes.

"We believe volunteering and community service is as important as the projects we ask our volunteers to do. It's kind of a two-pronged attack: The projects serve the community and improve the community and also the act of volunteering improves the individual," Bolton said.

For more information about Hands On Newton, call 770-330-7405 or visit www.handsonnewton.org.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.