5 ways to help this holiday season

Hosea Helps continues into its 50th year. AJC FILE

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Hosea Helps continues into its 50th year. AJC FILE

How and where to volunteer, donate for those in need of food assistance.

Approximately 725,600 households and 1.5 million individuals participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, as of July 2021, the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After revisions made in response to the pandemic, people who meet SNAP eligibility must have a gross income at or below 130% of the federal poverty line, or a net income at or below the poverty line. That data doesn’t even include undocumented immigrants with food assistance needs, because they don’t qualify for the program.

These numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they do give an idea of how many people in Georgia might struggle during the holidays. According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute, 84% of households in Georgia receiving SNAP lived at or below the federal poverty level in fiscal year 2019. Most of those households had children.

Read an update on SNAP benefits in Georgia.

Here are five places where you and your family can serve people this holiday season in the Atlanta area.

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Tables celebrate each time they fill a box full of meals during the 9/11 National Day of Service at the Georgia World Congress Center on Sept. 11, 2021. During the event, hundreds of volunteers packed meals for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Tables celebrate each time they fill a box full of meals during the 9/11 National Day of Service at the Georgia World Congress Center on Sept. 11, 2021. During the event, hundreds of volunteers packed meals for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Tables celebrate each time they fill a box full of meals during the 9/11 National Day of Service at the Georgia World Congress Center on Sept. 11, 2021. During the event, hundreds of volunteers packed meals for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

1. Atlanta Community Food Bank

The Atlanta Community Food Bank works with over 700 partners to collect and distribute over 9 million pounds of food and other grocery products every month, according to its website. Its partners include food pantries, shelters, community kitchens and mobile markets. In fiscal year 2019-20, the ACFB distributed more than 78 million pounds of products.

The food bank will be open Monday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving week and needs help at its Hunger Action Center in East Point. Volunteers could be expected to sort products, create boxes for senior citizens or repack bulk produce and grains. At the Community Food Center, volunteers could provide direct assistance to people in need in the Stone Mountain area.

“The Food Bank will be closed for volunteer activities the weekend of Dec. 25 and New Year’s Day, but in need of plenty of support with the surrounding days due to our limited schedule of operations,” said Jonathan James, volunteer program manager.

Volunteer shifts can be found at acfb.volunteerhub.com. People can also help by registering with the Food & Fund Drives program or donating online. All volunteers must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination upon arrival, should expect a temperature check and wear a mask during shifts.

2. Hosea Helps

Since 1971, Atlanta-based Hosea Helps has been a resource for people experiencing homelessness or poverty. A variety of programs target aid to children, families and women in need of food assistance, housing, disaster relief and education, among other things.

The organization celebrated its 50th anniversary in October with the opening of its new facility on Forest Hills Drive in DeKalb County. It will host its annual Thanksgiving Drive-Thru event on Nov. 19, with volunteer shifts available from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Volunteers can find more information and register at 4hosea.volunteermatrix.com. Prior registration is mandatory. Other ways people can help include donations of money or goods, signing up to offer professional services or sponsoring existing programs. More information is available at 4hosea.org.

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Mark Laster, a volunteer at Emmaus House in Peoplestown, selects food from the organization’s food pantry for a client. Ben Gray/ for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray

Mark Laster, a volunteer at Emmaus House in Peoplestown, selects food from the organization’s food pantry for a client. Ben Gray/ for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray

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Mark Laster, a volunteer at Emmaus House in Peoplestown, selects food from the organization’s food pantry for a client. Ben Gray/ for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

3. Emmaus House

Focused on the Peoplestown neighborhood, Emmaus House prioritizes economic success, youth development and grassroots movement to support its community. The neighborhood has received increased attention for political conversations surrounding environmental catastrophes and threat of evictions and the deadly shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

Executive Director Greg Cole said that while the organization has made some “adjustments” to volunteer programming — all for COVID-19 safety — both its Thanksgiving and Christmas programs will occur. To help this happen, people are encouraged to donate Thanksgiving meal bags with side items from a specified list at its website. Bags should be dropped off between Nov. 17-22 at the Emmaus House headquarters at 1017 Hank Aaron Drive SW.

Can’t donate goods? You can also help fund the purchase of 200 turkeys for Thanksgiving at emmaushouseatlanta.org/donate.

4. Atlanta Mission

This faith-based nonprofit oversees four homeless and recovery shelters and manages donations for emergency items including food, hygiene products and other basic needs.

This Thanksgiving, monetary donations will be doubled through a partnership between the Atlanta Mission and the Justin Landis Group. Physical donations can be dropped off Monday-Saturday at 2353 Bolton Road NW. More information at atlantamission.org.

Find opportunities for volunteering on and around the holiday season at atlantamission.volunteerhub.com. People interested in volunteering who might be wary of COVID-19 can also “volunteer in place,” doing things like editing resumes and shopping for people who have “graduated” from shelters and programs.

5. The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta

Volunteer opportunities available this holiday season at The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta range from shifts in its Angel Tree Warehouse to serving its Thanksgiving meal.

The annual Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 25 will be served at 469 Marietta St. NW. There are plenty of volunteer shifts available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Leading up to the event, several volunteer shifts are open in the afternoons and evenings for individuals or groups.

Additionally, the Angel Tree program places volunteers either in its warehouse in Tucker or at its toy shop in Gwinnett, primarily sorting toy donations and organizing gifts prior to Christmas time. Shifts for the Angel Tree program start the week of Nov. 22 and go through Dec. 18.

Sign up at salvation army atlanta.volunteerhub.com.

Looking for more?

If you are spending time outside metro Atlanta for the holidays and want to serve yourself or with family and friends, Feeding America lets people pledge to volunteer and provides information on participating food banks with volunteer opportunities at feedingamerica.org/take-action/volunteer/thanksgiving.

Find local food banks offering free Thanksgiving meals or boxes through Feeding America, at feedingamerica.org/need-help-find-food/thanksgiving.

If you know of other nonprofits not listed offering food- and holiday meal-related volunteer opportunities in November or December, please contact us at coveringpovertysite@gmail.com.

ExploreHosea Helps: A friend of hungry, homeless finds itself a real home


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Today’s story comes from our newest partner, the Covering Poverty project, which is part of the Journalism Writing Lab, an initiative of the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the University of Georgia.

This story and others will become part of an online toolkit, covering poverty.uga.edu, which is devoted to helping journalists across the country cover meaningful stories about people and poverty-related matters.

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