On Saturday, November 9th 2013, as winter approached, Atlanta Presbyterian Fellowship held the first of its coat-and-blanket drives. This was the brainchild of Warren Jackson, a member of the board of the Atlanta Fund, who also spearheaded the effort. We were assisted by a number of churches and individuals. For our own part, Pastor Frank and I canvassed our neighbourhood and between the efforts of all of us we were able to give away about 150 coats and other items of warm clothing. We also gave away about eight blankets, and from the remarks of the public we realised that blankets were as much a needed item as the coats were. We were given permission to use the parking lot of the Faith, Hope and Deliverance Chapel whose basement room we were currently renting, and we distributed the coats in conjunction with their weekly Saturday lunchtime free meal.
One young man, Jordan, from a church which had been involved in the collection of coats for our first drive was so impressed with the idea of helping the poor in this way that he asked us if he could lead another one (this time collecting both coats and blankets) as a project that would go towards earning an Eagle Scout award. Naturally we were most happy to accommodate him, and after he sought and received approval from his local Scout leader to undertake this project, he organised a number of other Scouts to help him. Given the amount of paperwork and time it took to gain this approval we weren’t able to actually do any distribution until late January and his parents wound up with a garage-full of coats and blankets! However, at the beginning of the new year when Atlanta was forecast to have a few severely cold days with temperatures dropping to well below freezing, Jordan and his family offered to bring a number of items to the church on Sunday evening, January 5th, so that at least the members of our congregation could have some relief from the cold. This went very well and we had a lot of happy smiling faces at the end of the evening.
On the assigned day for the big give-away, Saturday, January 25th, Faith, Hope and Deliverance Chapel kindly gave us permission to use their parking lot again even though by this time we were meeting at another location. Jordan and his family and fellow Scouts showed up with a mini-van stuffed with bags of clothes towing a sizeable trailer also stuffed with bags of clothes and a pickup with so many bags in the back that they had to be tied down with a tarp and bungee cords. We ended up handing out approximately 390 coats, 125 blankets and six large black trash-bags full of other clothes!
Everyone was very grateful. In the case of one family we were able to provide enough blankets for each child to have one. They had not had blankets before, just sleeping bags on the floor. The folk who actually come to Sunday School and worship on a regular basis are not homeless; they do have shelter from the cold. We know that this is the case because we ferry them back and forth and we know where to pick them up. I am sure that the level of heating available to them varies, but at least they are not on the streets. However, this ministry was also intended to serve any resident of the Bluff, which undoubtedly included some who were homeless. We were able to get names and phone numbers of some of the recipients (quite a few of them have free phones) and Pastor Frank called all those numbers about a week later. They all said they were most grateful for the coats and blankets. He also invited them to church and made follow-up calls but as of yet, the only people to have attended were two children whose father had picked up coats and they have since moved out of the area.
Meeting practical needs in the community is something we’d like to do more of and are working to come up with some ways in which we can do so. We believe that with the additional help of the young people of the Missions Team who will be joining us for seventeen days in the summer we will be able to generate some creative ways to attract more children. We would appreciate your prayers towards this end.