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Shoe box project under way

CONYERS — United Way in Rockdale County is holding its annual shoe box drive to collect essential toiletries and other small items for distribution to homeless women and children in the community.

The drive is held in conjunction with the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, which has collected shoe boxes filled with travel-size toiletries and other small items since 2004. United Way geared the shoe box drive for women and children because they make up the largest population of homeless residents in the metro Atlanta area.

The drive continues through May 7. Shoe boxes collected locally can be dropped off at the United Way in Rockdale Office, located at 1774 Scott St., in the city of Conyers Government Complex. For more information, call 678-623-2890.

The drive collected and distributed 12,500 shoe boxes to shelters across the region in 2009. The goal this year is to collect more than 20,000. In Rockdale County, United Way collected 600 shoe boxes and expects to do the same this year.

Claire Cline, executive director of United Way in Rockdale, explained the drive has taken on more significance as the number of homeless or displaced individuals has increased. Calls to United Way in Atlanta requesting transitional housing have increased 22 percent since 2008, with a significant number coming from Rockdale County.

"The United Way Shoebox Project is another way to help women and children in crisis," Cline said. "It may seem like a small and simple gesture, but filling and donating a shoe box makes you part of the solution. It is a way to show that you care about your neighbors who are in crisis and it tells them that you want to help."

United Way officials are encouraging residents to fill a shoe box with a combination of new, unopened items. Officials ask the boxes not be taped or sealed to allow for safety inspections.

The following items are accepted: Travel size shampoo, deodorant, travel size soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, travel size lotion, hair comb/brush, sun screen, lip balm, adhesive bandages, hand towels, antibiotic ointment, warm socks, tampons, panty liners, travel size water bottles, rain ponchos, resealable zipper storage bags and prepaid phone cards.

Items not accepted are medicine, candy, sewing kits, used or open items.