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Atlanta churches, faith groups help furloughed federal workers

On Sunday, the Rev. Wilbur Purvis asked how many members of his congregation were affected by the partial government shutdown.

Several raised their hands.

The pastor of Destiny World Church in Austell prayed for them, but something in his heart told him to do more.

A few days later, he handed out $500 checks to five people.

“I want to make sure we are taking care of our own,” said Purvis, who tapped the church’s benevolent fund. “I think this is shameful that we live in a country where our leader can hold people hostage like the government workers.”

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Around metro Atlanta, churches and faith-based organizations are stepping up to help Georgians affected by the shutdown.

They’re doing so with food, clothing, money and even yoga.


Related‘There’s all this stress’ for federal workers affected by shutdown


The partial shutdown is the longest one in U.S. history. Many families live paycheck to paycheck, so even missing one can cause problems.

Around the nation, some furloughed federal workers have put off doctor’s visits and even sold personal items. Furloughed federal workers have set up more than 1,500 GoFundMe pages to raise money.

Recently, 25 people stood in the pulpit of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church as Senior Pastor Jamal H. Bryant walked down the line giving them money donated by fellow members.

“I ain’t counting on Trump for nothing,” said Bryant, as members earlier walked down the aisles to give. “I ain’t waiting on the Democrats or the Republicans, but I will look to the hills.”

Church members at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were able to raise enough money to give fellow members affected by the government shutdown nearly $300 each in cash.

President Donald Trump is demanding at least $5.7 billion to fund his promised wall along the Mexican border, but Democrats are opposing his plan.

As a result, people like longtime New Birth member Mack Calhoun, 59, of Lithonia aren’t getting paid.

Calhoun, a manager with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is fortunate that he and his wife have outside investments, so their situation is “not quite as bad as some people I know who are at the end of their ropes. I know people who are really struggling.”

Calhoun said he will use the money to pay some bills, because “I don’t know how long this shutdown is going to last and I don’t want to get behind in my bills. … Typically, I’m in a position to be a blessing to other people, so this was a role switch for me.”

Antioch Baptist Church North is using its longstanding relationship with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to help impacted federal workers.

The church is organizing a food giveaway on Friday at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for TSA employees and other affected workers.

“When there’ve been disasters in the past, we’ve always worked together to respond to emergencies,” said Joe Beasley, a deacon at the church and longtime civil rights activist who ran the church’s urban ministries program.


RelatedHow the partial federal shutdown affects Georgia


About 30 of Antioch’s members will be on hand to distribute food from the Food Bank for about 1,500 families, Beasley said. The expectation is if the government shutdown drags on, so will the church’s outreach.

The Church of the Holy Comforter invited furloughed workers to participate in a program that offers breakfast and lunch every Tuesday and Thursday and dinner on Wednesday nights. They can also stay for yoga.

The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, which includes Holy Comforter, operates about two dozen food pantries around the state that would be available to affected members, said a diocese spokesman. The diocese has also offered a prayer service for its congregations specifically for people in this situation.

The South Fulton Ministerial Alliance, a collaboration of African-American churches, will soon meet to plan a service and outreach effort to aid the shutdown-affected workers.

The planned service, “Prayer, Praise, and Plates,” will aim to uplift workers’ spirits and provide meals, groceries, gas and MARTA cards to them.

Others are stepping up as well.

The Georgia Power Foundation recently announced a $50,000 donation to St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, a faith-based nonprofit, to help provide support to furloughed and unpaid federal workers and contractors in the state.

Through the fund, impacted families can ask for assistance by submitting a request to gapowerassistancefund@svdpgeorgia.org.

Officials at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta said they are closely monitoring the situation.

Any MJCCA member who is a federal employee on furlough and is in need of assistance is asked to contact membership director Hannah O’Donoghue at Hannah.ODonoghue@atlantajcc.org to discuss restructuring payment schedules for MJCCA programs.


More shutdown news:

It is happening as TSA workers are not getting paid during the partial government shutdown.

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