By Sandy Rose
We are approaching the summer months and the need for food assistance will become even more important.
Many children receive subsidized food for breakfast and lunch at their schools, but with the upcoming summer recess, these meals will not be available. Coupled with the ever-present need to help food-insecure families due to the economy, the lack of summer school meals puts more pressure on food pantries like the Suthers Center for Christian Outreach at 3550 Broad Street in Chamblee.
When the Suthers Center opened less than three years ago, they were helping about 60 families a month with food. The center is now assisting more than 240 families a month with almost 60 pounds of food per family per visit.
The Suthers Center was created by four churches in the Brookhaven area: St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church, Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church, Brookhaven United Methodist Church and Brookhaven Christian Church. Its outreach programs include an ever-expanding food pantry, an emergency assistance program, and a clothes closet for families in the 30319 and 30341 ZIP codes.
Much of the funding for its programs comes from its thrift shop’s profits, which is located at the front of the operation. All items sold in the shop are donated. There are no paid positions at the Suthers Center and all profits are used to fund the center’s outreach ministry. St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church and Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church also contribute further funds from their respective outreach budgets.
The thrift shop is filled with all manner of goods — women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, household items, books, jewelry, porcelain, artwork, toys, decorative items, bedding, antiques, silver, dinnerware, crystal and some furniture. Vouchers for $25 are given to clients who come to the emergency assistance program to obtain items available in the store, such as clothing, shoes, blankets, towels, sheets, pots, pans, dishes and eating utensils.
Helping those in need is meaningful and rewarding. We had a woman come in to donate a lot of clothes for our thrift shop and she also wrote us a check. We asked her if she wanted a receipt for tax purposes. She said “Oh, no. You fed us when we were hungry and now both my husband and I have jobs. We want to pay back in a small way the great help you gave us in our time of need.”
With the rapid growth in families seeking food assistance, the Suthers Center is fortunate to obtain much of its food from the Atlanta Community Food Bank. This includes meats, fresh vegetables, baked goods and many canned foods.
As a partner agency of the Food Bank, the Suthers Center can pick up product as needed for a minimal share contribution fee averaging .16 per pound. In addition, church- or school-based food drives occasionally supplement the pantry.
Based upon current projections, over 160,000 pounds of food and cleaning supplies are expected to be distributed to families seeking food assistance in 2013.
The center provides food assistance every Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. The Emergency Assistance program provides limited financial assistance to qualifying families every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon.
The thrift shop is open each week on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Wednesday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information on the Suthers Center for Christian Outreach, visit www.sutherscenter.com.
Sandy Rose is executive director of the Suthers Center for Christian Outreach.