STORIES from the
National Council of Churches Poverty March 2003:

Listening to and including those most affected by poverty…
The Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative, Georgia Avenue Community Ministry, Inc,
Georgia Avenue Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Georgia

There are four food cooperatives which comprise the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative. Thirteen families in need of food held a meeting on February 28, 1991, launching the first food co-op.  This group then elected a Steering Committee from among its members.  The members began using the Georgia Avenue Church facilities for meetings, devotions, discussion of broader neighborhood concerns and general fellowship.  They have contributed muscle power and money from their limited resources to sustain the co-ops and transport the food from the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the state farmers market.  Chad Hale, pastor of the Georgia Avenue Church, and his assistant Brian Lowring, were and still are the coordinators of co-op #1.   

In September, 1994, two of the original co-op members, Jackie Palmer and Fay Romero, concerned about the long list of families on the waiting list, began a second co-op.  They were awarded a start-up grant from the Self-Development of People Fund of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.  Co-op #2 is still coordinated by these women who are longtime residents of the community.  These women offer a ministry to others in need, plus they receive some income for using their gifts and talents.  The first meeting of co-op #3 was held on October 15, 1999. This coop is also coordinated by indigenous leadership -- Ella Duffy, a former member of co-op #2, and Kenny Redding, a former member of co-op #1.  Co-op #3 was begun with funding from the Presbyterian Hunger Fund.  Co-op #4 began on September 28, 2001, with a grant from the Michael and Belinda Morris Family Foundation.  Ella Duffy coordinates this co-op too along with Helen Lamar (a former member of co-op #3).   

Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative has a total membership of approximately 200 families.  This year they expect to distribute more than 110 tons of food.   The co-ops are membership only organizations which are open to anyone in need who pledges to help make the co-ops succeed.  Members pay $2.00 to join and $2.00 at each meeting, if they are able.  The co-ops meet every other week, at which time members receive food, spend time in fellowship, have a devotional time or community speaker, share prayer requests and needs, usually share a snack or meal, and receive a box of food valued at from $35 to $100, depending on the size of family.  Members then clean up and return home.   

Most of the members of the co-ops reside within a 1 mile radius of the church building, in the Summerhill/Grant Park area. Most members have incomes that fall below the poverty threshold determined by the government. Approximately 95% of those who are members of the food cooperatives are African American, 5% Caucasian.  Many of these are single-parent households, primarily headed by women.  The co-ops are faith-based, organized and run by the members of the co-ops and by members of the Georgia Avenue Church, respecting the racial and religious differences of all who come to take part in this unique program.   

Below are some of the major accomplishments of this wonderful ministry:
            (1) people have food they would not otherwise have;
            (2) relationships are developed with other members of the community as well as members of the church;
            (3) community is formed;
            (4) people are strengthened in their faith and encouraged in their relationship to God whether they identify themselves as Christian, Muslim, etc.;
            (5) racial reconciliation takes place through working together;
            (6) self-development and salvation occur as individuals are freed of alcoholism, jobs are obtained, parents take their child-rearing role more seriously, and healing occurs;
            (7) people’s gifts and assets and energy are drawn forth and put to work to help to keep the co-ops operating.  

Contact points:

The Rev. Chad Hale and Brian Lowring, Co-directors
The Georgia Avenue Community Ministry, Inc. 
645 Grant St., SE
Atlanta, GA  30312
Phone: 404-688-0871
Website: www.gacm.org
E-mail: whale37@earthlink.net 



Return to Week 3 of the Poverty March 2003 website.    |      NCC Home Page