Twelve months of change: what we’ve achieved since HOPE Atlanta and Action Ministries joined forces
In our 120-year history, HOPE Atlanta has seen many changes — from social upheavals brought by wars, natural disasters, and epidemics to the many ways we’ve evolved as an organization. Still, the past year has been unlike any other.
On March 16, 2021, we announced we were joining forces with Action Ministries to create a comprehensive solution to homelessness and hunger. We knew that we would be “Stronger Together,” but we also had our work cut out for us. Tackling these complex and widespread issues would need to involve not just our staff, but an army of advocates and partners.
For the past 12 months, it’s been incredible to see the momentum building. Let’s look at the many milestones that have us feeling both humbled and HOPEful.
Volunteers step up to serve
After we added hunger relief to our mission, volunteers became even more critical to our efforts. We rely on volunteers to pack food boxes, serve in our community kitchen, distribute meals to people in need, and more. Fortunately, the community seriously stepped up over the past year.
Every person has a basic need for survival — housing and food. HOPE Atlanta has a long-standing commitment to delivering these much-needed services to our community which motivates me to stay engaged. To that end, I am humbled and reminded of the daily scripture, ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’
– Rhonda Taylor, Board Member
In 2021, more than 1,000 community members volunteered in person. Hundreds more participated virtually. Their impact can’t be understated. Dedicating more than 25,000 hours, our volunteers helped distribute 1.9 million pounds of food!
We’ve watched our volunteer numbers grow to include both longtime supporters like Cheryl (last year’s Volunteer of the Year) and individuals, groups, and organizations who are new to our cause. If you’re interested in getting involved, please visit our volunteer opportunities page to learn more.
On the front lines of the eviction crisis
Countless Georgians had trouble affording rent before the pandemic. Disproportionately affecting those already struggling, COVID-19 ushered in an eviction crisis. Despite government moratoriums, HOPE Atlanta received up to 500 calls per week requesting housing assistance.
In FY21, we provided nearly 892 clients with homelessness prevention services like rental assistance. Another 830 were assisted with rapid re-housing, ensuring that their situations didn’t worsen and create a cycle of homelessness.
This critical lifeline was made possible by our dedicated staff and our supporters. HOPE Atlanta donors provide unrestricted funding that allows us to help people before they become homeless. Our Young Professionals Board even created a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to “Keep Families at Home,” joining forces to raise more than $15,000.
MARTA + HOPE: partners in compassion
Homelessness on MARTA trains and stations is a persistent problem since MARTA is a last resort for unsheltered people with no safe options (especially during cold weather). We believe that it’s best addressed through compassion, not policing. Fortunately, our friends at MARTA agree.
Officially launched in August 2020, the MARTA HOPE program has added staff and dedicated shelter beds to confront the growing need. It’s part of an outreach program that engaged more than 4,000 individuals and households in FY21. Behind those numbers are people, and our team sees the potential in all of them. (For some of their stories, check out this video featuring the “Street to Home” portrait series and interviews).
While the need is still tremendous, and not everyone is ready to receive help, the team’s steadfast commitment has led to many hard-fought success stories. The MARTA HOPE team is driving lasting change by working 1–1 with each of these clients to overcome homelessness and other obstacles.
Combating hunger across Georgia
Not everyone realizes how prevalent hunger is in Georgia. Like homelessness, it’s an issue that spans across Georgia (not just the “inner city”). Addressing it requires an approach tailored to individual communities, with plenty of people and organizations ready to roll up their sleeves. Over the past year, as inflation squeezed household budgets, that’s exactly what our supporters have done.
While the Action Ministries name has changed, the needs in the community have not — those needs have only increased. I have seen HOPE Atlanta’s commitment to serving the housing and hunger needs across Georgia.
– Les Harper, Advisory Council Member
At the heart of our hunger relief efforts are coordinators like Denise Shackelford, who tirelessly manages our hunger relief operations in Carroll County. Then there are the organizations that send food and volunteers. In 2021, some organizations — like Synovous and Georgia’s Own Credit Union — even organized their own donation drives to benefit HOPE Atlanta.
We were also incredibly fortunate to have Publix Super Markets in our corner as we aimed to raise awareness around hunger. Publix sponsored a commercial that aired during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics — a first for HOPE Atlanta!
Because of this massive community effort, we distributed more than 1.9 million pounds of food in FY21. That included 62,000 Super Packs for food-insecure kids, 16,000 plated meals, and almost 30,000 grocery boxes for families in need.
Community answers the call during ‘100 Days of HOPE’
In the 100 days leading up to our Heroes for HOPE event, we challenged the community to “Put HOPE into Action.” After all, HOPE isn’t just an emotion. It’s an action. And, it turns out, it’s contagious.
HOPE Atlanta is made up of passionate people committed to helping everyone with the human need of food and housing and partnering with others doing the same.
– Kenneth Abele, Board Member
Corporate citizenship took center stage, as community leaders like Northside Hospital stepped up to sponsor Heroes for HOPE (even as the event went virtual for the second year, amid COVID concerns). We honored our sponsors, honorees, and co-chairs with an Atlanta Business Chronicle spotlight. Because women are blazing the trail for housing equity in Metro Atlanta, we also celebrated their leadership.
When the campaign culminated, we’d raised more than $377,000 to combat homelessness and hunger.
Restoring strength for struggling veterans and families
Veteran families like Crystal’s face unique challenges. Although they are recognized around Veterans Day and other holidays, they’re 50% more likely to experience homelessness than the general population — and deserve more than patriotic platitudes.
To raise awareness around veterans’ issues and give the community a meaningful way to support them, we once again partnered with Montlick & Associates for Veterans Week of Service. Our community once again rallied, donating more than 100 move-in, cleaning, and hygiene kits, nearly 2,000 blankets, and more than $7,000.
Thanks in no small part to our community’s support, we served 2,748 veterans in FY21.
Bringing our mission ‘home’ for the holidays
The 2021 holiday season saw yet another groundswell of giving, as we sought to ensure that more people could enjoy the comforts of home during the holidays. On Giving Tuesday, we raised more than $12,000 in online donations. By the end of the year, donations totaled $148,000 — $100,000 of which was matched by generous supporters.
While the numbers speak for themselves, the comments received from the community were just as moving. One community member left the following comment along with his online donation:
“Our family talked about Giving Tuesday and why it is important to support our community and organizations in our community that provide assistance to its members. My son (who is 6) chose HOPE Atlanta to give to because he agrees with your vision and thinks the work you do sounds important. Thank you for all you do!”
– Giving Tuesday Donor
Glimmers of HOPE and lasting change
While much has changed in the past year, including our expanded mission and new office location, we remain committed to fighting inequality, one client at a time. The issues are complex, difficult, and even painful to acknowledge. But if the past year has shown us anything, it’s that our community is willing to show up anyway.
I am still hopeful about our future and our work because of the commitment, dedication, skills, resources and love shown daily by the people who are charged with making our vision and our goal a reality.
– Bob Greene, Board Member
We thank each and every person who has walked alongside us during the past year and beyond. With your support, we can’t wait to see what the next year brings. Stay up-to-date by following us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter!