Atlanta weather | Nonprofit services strained by storm, need help

A truck loaded with donated canned peaches from California sat idle for two days outside the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Delivery of these goods was delayed because the food bank's offices were closed by the weather. When local community kitchens, churches and nonprofit organizations needed supplies the most, they had to go without.

In some cases, the process of feeding metro Atlanta's needy was as frozen as the city's surface streets.

Antioch Baptist Church North is a food bank client, helping about 500 families each week. The church wasn't able to  operate its food program because it was too dangerous for staffers and volunteers to drive to the church or pick up supplies at the food bank.

People such as Phillip Render, 38, suffered the most through the interruption of services.

"It helps me out at certain times when I can't get much food for my family," he said of the food bank.

Render, who had to move in with his parents after he was laid off as a contractor with a local gas company and doesn't own a car, said the bad weather couldn't have come at a worse time. He was a few days from receiving his January food stamp allotment.

With the Antioch food program temporarily shut down, Render, who volunteers at Antioch, had to depend on his parents for added assistance. "[That's] sad to me," he said. "Right now I can't bring in like I was bringing in."

Nonprofits, already feeling the squeeze from a greater demand for services because of the jobless rates and economic slowdown, had delivery trucks stopped cold on dangerous roads, and staffers and volunteers left housebound.

"Everybody is pitching in to help unload the trucks," said Bill Bolling, CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, who had staffers calling clients to reschedule pick-up times. "My guess is that it will take us a week to catch up. "

Jobcy Alexander, the nutrition coordinator for Cobb County Senior Services, which operates a Meals On Wheels program, said deliveries stop if weather conditions force schools to close.

"When schools are closed we don't expect people, and that usually means volunteers, to go out and deliver," Alexander said.

In anticipation of these obstacles, participants are given a week's worth of meal packs to use until deliveries begin again. Alexander said case workers and others were calling seniors to make sure they were OK and had food.

Some nonprofits will feel the effects of the storm for some time.

In addition to helping metro residents, The Salvation Army of Metropolitan Atlanta provided emergency meals, beverages and blankets for passengers stranded at Atlanta's Greyhound bus terminal. It also operated an emergency Cold Weather Program for the homeless at its Red Shield Services facility downtown.

The three-day relief effort at the bus station has strained the program's existing food supply, spokeswoman Lafeea Watson said. Trucks were unable to replenish supplies and many staffers opted to work overtime since volunteers were unable to get in.

Watson said the agency is seeking donations because there will be a greater demand for financial help in coming weeks when people receive their electric bills and need help buying food.

Food and financial donations are needed at the Atlanta Mission, where the facilities are operating at or over capacity use, according to the organization. Its downtown campus, which offers emergency and temporary shelter, residential recovery and transitional housing to homeless men, is operating at more than 125-percent capacity.  Since Monday, the Atlanta Mission has served at least 700 men at that campus and more than 2,000 meals per day.

The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless has issued an urgent plea for donations of prepared meals to serve about 700 people. The organizations and churches scheduled to provide food each night have been unable to fulfill this duty because of the weather.

People such as Maurice Lattimore, 52, a transitional housing resident at the task force's Peachtree-Pine site, have been left to eat only sandwiches brought in by the staff. There is also a need for toilet paper, sleeping bags, blankets and coats.

"The storm has thrown us way off track," Lattimore said. "We're running low, especially on toilet paper, but at least we've got this roof, warmth, and we've got to hope and pray for the rest."

To donate

The Salvation Army of Metropolitan Atlanta,, 404-486-2900

Atlanta Mission, 404-588-4000,

Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, 404-230-5000, donated meals can be dropped off at 477 Peachtree St. (delivery entrance on Pine Street)

Atlanta Community Food Bank, 404-892-3333,