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Fundraiser lights a pathway out of homelessness

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Visitors to the Hearts of Gold fundraiser Friday are greeted by an unusual yuletide trio, Santa (Vernon Dyer), Santa’s helper (Jeneva Martinez) and the Grinch. (Lisa Dunlap Photo) (Branson Linthicum).

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In a symphony of lights and music, the Second Annual Hearts of Gold Roswell Homeless Coalition Fundraiser began early Friday night as Jesse McDaniel switched on the decorations at his home on 2509 N. Cambridge Ave.

Jesse McDaniel’s house on Cambridge Avenue is adorned in Christmas colors. The Roswell Homeless Coalition fundraiser occurred Friday only, but the light and music show can be seen until Jan. 15. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The coalition had received $11,000 in pledges from seven businesses before the event, said Jeneva Martinez, a coalition board member. Five of those pledges are meant to be matching gifts if the coalition receives $2,000 in donations from those who attend Friday’s event. The other two were $500 gifts.

The night included sips of cocoa and cider from Stellar Coffee, some “gold bars” from Chef Toddzilla and visits with Santa and the Grinch.

McDaniel has been going all out with Christmas decorations for five years, “to make people smile,” he said. The night’s show required three weeks of labor by four people and can be seen by visitors until about Jan. 15, although the fundraiser was a one-night-only event.

The Roswell Homeless Coalition runs a women’s shelter and a men’s shelter that has served more than 200 people so far in 2018, Martinez said. The nonprofit relies on donations and private grants, receiving no government funding at the current time. All money raised goes to shelter operations. Last year, the group raised $21,000 from the Hearts of Gold fundraiser.

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The shelters usually are full. “But we have two beds right now in the women’s shelter,” said Joel Wood, president of the coalition’s board of directors, “and that is because two women were able to get an apartment together, not because they are back on the street.”

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