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Covington's homeless shelter gets $16K in donations

COVINGTON — Mayor Ronnie Johnston told the City Council on Monday that donations to Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter total $16,320 since he made an appeal two weeks ago to the community to help keep the shelter’s doors open.

Johnston estimated last week that donations were close to $18,000; but the correct amount is $16,320 — with $6,100 donated by shelter board members and $10,220 donated by the community to the bank account set up by Newton Federal.

“People care in Covington and it’s a great thing,” Johnston said.

He added that “every penny of it is going toward utilities, and I’m happy to say they will have a credit for a couple of months.”

Johnston said he was approached by former Mayor Sam Ramsey and asked to get involved.

“If we’re going to have a homeless shelter, and we do have a homeless shelter, I want it to be the best homeless shelter in Georgia,” he said.

He asked the council to share any ideas regarding the shelter and to consider donating their time.

Johnston recently told the shelter board of directors that there needs to be operational changes to the shelter, given the ongoing struggles to pay bills. Johnston said someone needs to be brought in to handle the business side of the shelter — accounting, grant writing and day-to-day operations — leaving working with shelter residents to Executive Director Clara Lett.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams thanked Johnston for taking action but said she hopes that those who are getting involved don’t have the ultimate goal to “undermine (Lett’s) direction of that shelter. I think it would be a travesty and this community would be very upset about that happening, to undermine her directorship of that program.”

Johnston said that’s not his goal and that “I’m not looking at the past, I’m looking at the future.”

The shelter was more than $5,300 in arrears on utilities and in danger of having utilities cut off, forcing the doors to close, earlier this month. According to the Covington Housing Authority, which owns the property where the shelter is located on Turner Lake Circle, the shelter is also thousands of dollars behind on rent.