Published Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Benefit helps local charities with projects

By W. WINSTON SKINNER

winston@newnan.com

The biannual Belk Charity Sale drew volunteers from a wide range of local non-profits on Saturday.

“We had more than 30 charities who participated with us this year. That’s more than we’ve ever had before,” said Suzie Hartman, manager of the Belk at Ashley Park. “They were all very successful in selling tickets out in the community.”

Volunteers from participating groups – which included civic clubs, outreach organizations and churches – were assigned various tasks during the sale hours. Some bagged purchases or took packages to cars for shoppers.

At each entry door volunteers were stationed to greet shoppers and to collect and sell tickets. One group, which included Alfrieda Thomas from Breakaway Child Care Center, a longtime Charity Sale participant, manned the gift wrap counter.

Belk’s Charity Sale is held twice a year. The department store chain offers tickets to non-profit groups, and volunteers sell the tickets for $5 each. The groups keep all the ticket money.

Ticket holders get extra savings during the Charity Sale, which was held Saturday from 6-10 a.m. Each ticket is also good for $5 off a single purchase.

Talia Jones of Tyrone was the first person through the door. “I got here early,” she said, getting the first spot in line about 3 a.m. “I wanted to do something different,” Jones said.

Jones said she particularly wanted to buy a gift for her baby. Dustin Shaffer, who accompanied Jones to the sale, said the baby is due “anytime.”

Hartman gave away gift cards to the first 175 people in the door. Doughnuts, muffins and coffee were available for shoppers who had not had breakfast.

“We had a great turnout,” Hartman said.

In addition to coming the morning of the sale, ticket holders had an option of selecting items ahead of time to be processed during the sale with the extra savings. Hartman said the presale was particularly strong, which she attributed to the fact that “the charities did such a good job” selling tickets and explaining the presale opportunity “for the folks who don’t want to be here at 6 in the morning.”

Many people look forward to the early morning event, which has a social aspect to it for volunteers and shoppers. Some groups also share information about their programs and projects.

Kaitlyn Burley, president of the Community Welcome House teen advisory board, and Kelsey Kitchens, a member of the group, offered information about Welcome House, which is a haven for women who have been abused and their children.

Burley said a friend was on the Welcome House advisory board last year. “She told me to come to one of their meetings. I got involved because it was giving back to the community,” she said.

Burley said the teen board mounted a fall festival for youngsters at Welcome House in October and is planning a Thanksgiving event. “It’s fun,” she said.

She said working with Welcome House makes her appreciate her own circumstances. “You step back and look at how lucky you are,” Burley reflected.

Belk’s Charity Sale last year raised more than $5 million for some 8,000 participating non-profit organizations across the region where the stores are located, according to Jessica Graham, vice president for communications and community relations.

“Supporting our communities is a Belk tradition, and our Charity Sale is just one way we partner with our customers to offer that support,” Graham said. She described Charity Sale day as a time for people to get “good bargains and help their local charities.”

Most of the volunteers had sold lots of tickets before getting to the Ashley Park store on Saturday morning. Jacki Parker of the Newnan Pilot Club said the Pilots raise money through Belk tickets for local scholarships and for project at nursing homes.

Some of the proceeds also will “go into a fund for Alzheimer’s research,” she said.

Parker said she personally and the Pilots generally had great luck selling tickets. “We usually pretty much sell all our tickets,” she said.

Burley was less successful with selling tickets. “I tried,” she said. “I really did.”

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