There’s no denying the tremendous impact COVID-19 has had on residents in Greater Atlanta — particularly those who are food insecure.

The pandemic outbreak of the novel coronavirus only amplified that need in underserved communities, disrupting access to food for thousands of children and their families.

This past week, United Way of Greater Atlanta, in partnership with Coca-Cola, hosted a Week of Service to meet the needs of those residents most greatly impacted by COVID-19.

About two weeks into March, major cities around the country began shutting down any non-essential businesses in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus, an infectious disease, which is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing.

United Way had previously halted in-person events and volunteer opportunities but began offering safe and socially-distanced on-site volunteer events, as well as virtual and DIY opportunities in the months since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp rolled back restrictions on a previous “shelter-in-place” order.

This is a new way that United Way has begun to meet the needs of the community while also making sure volunteers have opportunities available based on their comfort level.

“We are in constant communication with our partners on their needs and filling in as they arise,” says Brittany Phouangphet, Engagement Specialist in the Volunteerism Department for United Way. “Projects can also be tailored to specific groups and their unique set of skills. As a valued partner of United Way for over a century, Coca-Cola engages volunteers annually. This Week of Service was a special call to action, designed to address the impact of COVID-19 on the growing issue of food insecurity in Greater Atlanta.”

Over the past week, volunteers assembled more than 1,000 meals, harvested fresh veggies and performed garden maintenance for local gardens that deliver to food banks around Greater Atlanta and also implemented an emergency operation in conjunction with the Westside Future Fund to help feed families in historic Westside of Atlanta — an area that is growing rapidly, but still has great need, Phouangphet says.

“We are seeing overwhelming enthusiasm from our volunteers, whether it is a DIY project to complete at home, or a small group on-site event that has proper safety measures, volunteers are more eager than ever to help ensure our community thrives,” Phouangphet says. “The current climate has influenced us to increase our offering of virtual and remote opportunities; ensuring both the safety of our volunteers and meeting the needs of our communities.”

Learn more about how you can volunteer in your area and donate to improve the well-being of children and families in Greater Atlanta.

Think of a child in the Fulton County School System. He’s in fourth grade, in a few years, he’ll be in middle school and before you know it, he’ll be walking across the stage with diploma in hand.

This little boy’s life hasn’t always been the easiest—his mother had difficulty keeping a full-time job until she started driving for Uber. They’ve both been living in motel rooms and temporary housing this year. Life is a struggle, but there’s enough to live on for now. Things are OK, and at least one thing has been a constant for this little boy through it all.

Each morning, he wakes up and goes to school. He may not have the same access to resources as his classmates or other children living in neighboring zip codes, but he gets the same opportunity for a quality education. This is his normal, the life he’s come to expect.

Life changed for this child on March 9, though, when it was announced a teacher in the Fulton County School System had confirmed they were infected with COVID-19. In the coming days, school systems were ordered to be closed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, shelter-in-place orders were enforced by state and local officials and children across the state were forced to stay at home.

But that created a whole new set of problems. It has been hard to get in touch with families, not all children had access to computers or the internet, parents lost jobs or had hours cut back tremendously, access to groceries, transportation and housing needs were pushed to the forefront—there were mental health issues to address, as well.

“We’ve always had these needs,” says Chelsea Montgomery, executive director of Counseling, Psychological and Social Work Services for Fulton County Schools. “COVID urgently increased our need for basic resources, and money would be critical. It’s expensive to get families in hotels.”

“We did a good job of making school meals accessible, but transportation was a challenge. Now we’re starting to see a lot more need for housing and support for COVID-related trauma.”

There are currently more than 1,300 students in the Fulton County School System who are homeless, Montgomery says. Those students and their families are spread throughout the county and are not just limited to one region.

While issues like these have always been apparent in Fulton County, the pandemic outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the forced shutdown of many businesses across Greater Atlanta have only exacerbated these problems. As of May 11, the infectious disease, COVID-19, which is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever and in severe cases, difficulty breathing, has infected more than 1.3 million and killed more than 78,000 people across the United States.

As schools shut down, Montgomery says her team of social workers began hearing from homeless children, foster families and other at-risk children of their specific needs. She said there wasn’t yet a way to fulfill them. They had to act quickly.

“The school Social Workers are in constant contact with families, and so are all of our Student Support Staff,” Montgomery says. “They have been checking in with families each week, and as those needs come up, the [School Social Workers] complete a request form, we have our internal reviewers take a look at those requests and we meet them.”

Montgomery was able to turn to Graham Huff with the Fulton Education Foundation to help provide funds and access for these families that needed it.

The Fulton Education Foundation was established to partner with the community to address the physical, emotional, academic and enrichment needs of all students. They have provided College and Career services, after-school programs, mental health services, early education opportunities and scholarships.

But this pandemic presented new challenges. Huff knew the need in Fulton County was great, and he leveraged previous relationships with contacts at United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to apply for money through the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

The Fulton Education Foundation was awarded grants totaling $300,000 to contribute to the costs of housing, food, transportation and therapy for students presenting the greatest needs.

“We’ve placed 36 families so far, and we’ve helped them with some rent coverage,” Huff said May 11. “We’re also helping them with hygiene supplies and mental health services. We’ve put together a great committee, and we’re doing a great job for accountability.”

Huff, who has been the President and CEO of the Fulton Education Foundation for just “over a year,” said the foundation has looked at this as a “bottom-up approach,” working to provide homeless families a place to stay first, and then pre-loaded gift cards that can be used to purchase grocery items or to pay for transportation.

This was the first funding Huff had received from both United Way and Community Foundation, he says.

“We’ve really tried to implement best practices and set the standards for this type of support system,” Huff says. “We’ve been able to put more toward support of students this year than the previous 10 years combined—we’ve received large gifts even beyond this COVID-19 grant.”

Montgomery says her school system was “bombarded” with families in need once this pandemic struck.

“We were preparing, but it happened really quickly,” she says. “We didn’t have good, safe, quick solutions.

“But Graham came and said, ‘What are your challenges?’ I got with our lead team and said, ‘This is what we need.’”

These funds provided by United Way and Community Foundation gave Montgomery, her team and families in Fulton County one vitally important thing: hope.

That’s been invaluable during this time.

“It’s really nice for my staff to know that when we talk to these families, we have a solution,” Montgomery says. “Not only is it amazing for our families, but our morale has been better. It’s incredible to know there’s not a lot of red tape or rules and that we can just provide help, and fast. It’s exactly what our families needed.”

If you would like to help more children and families across Georgia, give to United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

ATLANTA– April 1, 2020 – Noted Atlanta investor Michael Klump, founder and CEO of investment firm Argonne Capital Group, LLC, announced today a $1 million donation to the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund—a fund created by United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to help people most affected by the current pandemic. The fund has already issued close to $4 million in grants to address critical issues exacerbated by COVID-19, like food insecurity and need for rent and utility assistance, medical support and childcare.

The Klump donation will be made by Michael and his wife, Elizabeth, through The Klump Family Foundation. The donation comes alongside previously announced contributions from local corporate and philanthropic leaders including The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company and the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. A full list of funders is detailed here.

“Elizabeth and I have always been committed to the well-being of the people of Atlanta. We hope this donation can lift up our communities during these difficult times and help their citizens return to their livelihoods as quickly and safely as possible,” said Klump. “We hope that this gift encourages other local leaders to lend their support.”

The Klump Family Foundation also supports Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Skyland Trail (a nonprofit mental health organization), and several other local non-profit organizations.

“The current pandemic is revealing how interconnected we all are, and how much we depend on one another to do the right thing” says Milton J. Little, Jr., CEO and president of United Way of Greater Atlanta. “We are grateful to Michael and Elizabeth Klump and The Klump Family Foundation for showing such strong support for our community through their generous gift.”

“We appreciate this significant commitment from The Klump Family Foundation, it will help amplify our efforts to get funding into the region quickly and effectively,” said Alicia Philipp, president, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “Generous contributions like this underscore the role of philanthropy in this time of uncertainty.”

Klump is the founder and chairman of Argonne Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private investment firm founded in 2003 that specializes in multi-unit restaurant, retail and service industries. The firm’s investments include significant holdings in brands such as IHOP, Applebee’s, Planet Fitness, John Deere, Sonny’s BBQ and On The Border Mexican Grill and Cantina.

 

About United Way of Greater Atlanta

United Way of Greater Atlanta, the largest United Way chapter in the nation, focuses on ensuring that every child in Atlanta has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. The organization invests in more than 200 programs in 13 counties through the Child Well-Being Impact Fund and works to help children succeed in school, improve financial stability of families, provide affordable and accessible healthcare and end homelessness. For more information, visit: unitedwayatlanta.org or Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

 

About the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Since 1951, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has been leading and inspiring philanthropy to increase the vitality of our region and the well-being of all residents. With nearly 70 years serving the 23-county Atlanta region and a robust team of experts, the Community Foundation expands its philanthropic reach and impact by providing quality services to donors and bold, innovative community leadership. The Community Foundation is a top-20 community foundation among 750 nationally, with approximately $1.2 billion in current assets, and is Georgia’s second largest foundation. For more information, visit: cfgreateratlanta.org or connect with the Foundation via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

 

Media Contacts

For United Way of Greater Atlanta
Chad Parker
(404) 358-5055
cparker@unitedwayatlanta.org

More than 350,000 children across Greater Atlanta are hungry during the summer months — children like Caleb.

Caleb relied heavily on Bridging the Gap, a partner agency with Atlanta Community Food Bank, and its summer meals site to have lunch daily.

At this site, he built strong friendships with other kids just like him and the volunteers who helped run the site.

Caleb’s mother, Amber, had a “really good life” until a car accident three years ago affected her legs and made it impossible for her to work. This past summer, Amber had been watching neighborhood kids at her home and had taken them all to the park where these meals were being served.

“They went down there, and they got a lunch, which was a surprise because I didn’t know it was down there,” Amber says. “That’s how Caleb and the other kids I had with me at the time met these guys, and they really liked them.”

Amber said her son went every day.

“It wasn’t just about the food,” she says. “It was about the friendliness they showed him. At that time, my husband was gone for two months, and he’s the main income. It showed [Caleb] support to be able to talk to someone else instead of just me all the time.”

United Way of Greater Atlanta launched its Silence the Growl summer meal initiative six years ago with the purpose of feeding children who are hungry each summer because they don’t have access to school lunches.

In six years, more than 230,000 meals fed children in need. United Way’s efforts have been successful. In 2019, United Way reached its goal of serving 80,000 meals. This success has allowed the program to expand year-round and because of programs like this, kids can focus on more important things — like, being kids.

United Way saw after its strategic planning meeting two years ago that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. United Way saw that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9.

On May 9, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being. By using the child as the lens, we can identify the big picture needs of the community, and if the child is fed, then there’s one less thing he or she needs to worry.

Amber is appreciative of all the summer meals that were given to her son.

“You have to be fed to even function on a daily basis,” she says. “Even for children to function right in their mind at anything they do, they have to have [food].

“There’s more people out there than we know. There’s more people than we think that don’t want to let anybody know they’re in that situation.”

If you would like to help us Silence the Growl across Greater Atlanta year-round, and give kids the opportunity to reach their full potential, click here.

A timid 7-year-old boy picks up a phone and dials the number for MUST Ministries.

The dial tone rings out and a woman answers on the other end.

“Can you bring us lunches?” the 7-year-old says. He’s been hungry this summer. And that’s not uncommon.

More than 350,000 children across Greater Atlanta are hungry during the summer months. The lunches they’ve come to expect each day during the school year are no longer available.

That was what led United Way of Greater Atlanta to launch its Silence the Growl summer meal initiative about six years ago with the purpose of feeding children who are hungry each summer because they don’t have access to school lunch.

MUST Ministries is an agency that partners with United Way. Community Outreach Coordinator for MUST Breier Sanders answered the little boy’s call that day.

“He wanted his family to be added on the route for delivery,” Sanders says. “A child calling, not a parent, made it feel more urgent and it hit my heart a little harder.”

Unfortunately, the family’s address was not near any route that was already operating, Sanders says. But every Monday she would knock on his door to give him food for the week.

In six years, more than 230,000 meals fed children in need through Silence the Growl. United Way’s efforts have been successful. In 2019, United Way reached its goal of serving 80,000 meals. This success has allowed the program to expand year-round and because of programs like this, kids can focus on more important things — like, being kids.

United Way saw after its strategic planning meeting two years ago that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. United Way saw that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9.

On May 9, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being. By using the child as the lens, we can identify the big picture needs of the community, and if the child is fed, then there’s one less thing he or she needs to worry.

Sanders says about 10 children came running to meet her at the door that first Monday. This then became her weekly routine, and it was a routine she started looking forward to.

“Delivering food to them was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that taught me that beyond food was fellowship and family,” Sanders says.

If you would like to help us Silence the Growl across Greater Atlanta year-round, and give kids the opportunity to reach their full potential, click here.

Food program gives children access to nutritious meals

By Bradley Roberts

Food insecurity is a problem in Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties.

United Way of Greater Atlanta found once summer break starts, many of the more than 350,000 children in the area who participate in free or reduced school meal programs go without breakfast or lunch.

United Way created the Silence the Growl® campaign, which raises funds for partner agencies in the community that already work to combat the summer hunger problem. Through this partnership, Action Ministries and MUST Ministries are able to prepare, pack and distribute meals five days a week throughout the summer.

“It’s a lot, but it is a drop in the bucket,” says Charles Sterne, director of United Way’s Silence the Growl initiative. “Over the course of the summer program that we fund, we are serving thousands of meals.”

Sterne works on the implementation of the grant funding. He works alongside the community partners helping them secure funds that make these projects possible.

“We’re funding [Silence the Growl] and supplementing the existing programs that MUST and Action run,” Sterne said. “They are the ones sourcing the food, and so we don’t actually participate in that.”

The Silence the Growl program started in 2014, but the relationship with MUST, Action and United Way has been going on for much longer.

“The driving force behind this was campaign dollars raised outside of campaign strategy,” Sterne said. “The idea was to find a project that we could raise funds for through crowdfunding. Summer meals was identified as a potential source for that, and the reason they started the program was to address the issue.”

The partner agencies know the communities they serve. These are communities packed with people from Title I schools who benefit from those free and reduced lunches during the school year. These partners depend on large volunteer-run operations to make these meal-packing programs possible, Sterne said.

Yvonne Byars, senior director of volunteer services for MUST Ministries, oversees thousands of volunteers who prepare meals for Silence the Growl recipients.

“The summer lunch program is over the course of nine weeks, and we start that the Monday after school ends and run that all the way up through the last Friday [before school starts back],” Byars said. “That takes volunteers, donors, corporations and families, and they actually donate the lunches.”

Those lunches include a “sandwich, fruit, a salty snack and a drink,” Byars said.

Many of the volunteers will pack lunches in the MUST Ministries headquarters in Cobb County, says Ashley Allen, grant manager for MUST.

“It’s an elaborate web of logistics,” Allen said. “Some of them [volunteers] will color the bags and write something inspirational for the children. It means so much for those kids when they get those lunches.”

Allen applies for grants that support the summer meal programs. She said Silence the Growl has been one of the biggest supporters to make the programs “successful these past couple of years.”

Many of the volunteers will work multiple shifts throughout the summer, Allen said.

“Some volunteers sign up to work on this all summer long, and there are some that have a delivery route and magnets for their car,” Allen said.

Allen said United Way has been key in making the program a success.

Amy Olvey, director of Hunger Relief Programs at Action Ministries, said besides purchase, preparing, packing and serving meals, volunteers will also engage in “enrichment” activities with the kids receiving the meals.

“We have some teachers that will go out and read to the kids and possibly do an art project,” Olvey said.

The children in the community served come from Title I schools, but the meals are dispersed at apartment complexes, mobile home parks and even some community centers in various counties. Action serves more than 15 counties throughout the course of the 10-week summer period, and they’ve expanded the program to year-round in the Atlanta metro area of Gwinnett, Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Action also works throughout the year with weekend support food programs at the schools during the school year, Olvey said.

“I think the program is very impactful as far as the nutrition, but also the impact that it makes on the family as a whole,” Olvey said. “These families are working, and when kids are out for school breaks, the [family’s] budget really changes. When you have someone on that tight of a budget and they’ve got a change in those numbers, it can really put things out of whack.”

United Way, its partners and donors understand it is fundamental that a child have access to sustainable, nutritious meals. There are a lot of basic needs, but access to food is essential.

“There’s a hierarchy of needs,” Sterne said. “At the base level, there’s food and shelter, but unless a child is eating well— getting enough food to sustain and eating nutritiously, they are not going to be doing well in school. You’re not going to be seeing positive health outcomes if they are just eating junk food or fast food.
“Access to healthy food and nutrition and not being hungry is fundamental to child well-being. It’s at the heart of it.”