One Roof Offers Hope
Many of us have been gnashing our teeth at declining property values and retirement plans, and spikes in expenses like gasoline and health insurance. All are legitimate concerns. But sometimes we need to stop and remember that there are residents across the Southern Crescent who would love to have such problems.
They may not have a roof over their heads or know where their next meal is coming from. If they do have a place to live, they may be about to have their power or water cut off. Important prescriptions may go unfilled. An item like a new toothbrush may represent a luxury.
In 2007, nine Coweta churches (St. Paul’s Episcopal; Newnan Presbyterian; Central Baptist of Newnan; St. Mary Magdalene Catholic; Crossroads; and four United Methodist congregations — Newnan First, Cornerstone, Cokes Chapel, and FaithCreek) founded One Roof Ecumenical Alliance Outreach to help provide emergency assistance to those in need in the county. Headquartered in Newnan, One Roof now draws support from many additional area churches, as well as from various other non-profit groups, businesses, and individuals.
Last year, reports Executive Director Derenda Rowe, One Roof gave 20,047 people vouchers for the Coweta Community Food Pantry; paid 149 utility bills and 18 prescriptions; assisted 122 families with rent; provided motel lodging for 100 families/individuals; and helped 25 homeless families/individuals get housing. (The latter included three seniors in grave need — a woman living in her truck, a man living in a garage, and a woman whose rental house had been condemned.) One Roof also provides things like clothing and household items.
Unfortunately, the need is growing. “For example, back in 2007, we helped feed 6,497 people with vouchers. By 2011, it was up to 20,047,” says Rowe. And donations have declined recently. Volunteer Deborah Ward notes with concern, “Earlier this summer, our supply of toiletries was down to a handful of mini soaps. But we have lots of clients and they need a variety of things, like razors and shampoo and diapers. We really want to be able to help people.”
One Roof needs both money (donations can be mailed in or made online) and materials. “We can always use new or gently used furniture,” says Rowe, “and kitchen and household items, like pots and pans, flatware, and small appliances. Can openers are a big plus. We need all kinds of personal care and hygiene items. For example, we need diapers and wipes not just for babies, but for adults, since many of our clients are caring for elderly or disabled family members. We take new mattresses, and secondhand ones if they’re in near-pristine condition — please check with us first before bringing those by.”
One Roof also collects new or gently used clothing and household items for its thrift store, the Resale House. The store helps raise funds for One Roof while serving shoppers on tight budgets (and bargain hunters).
Donations for clients or for the Resale House can be made weekdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. “Please don’t leave items outside the building after hours or on weekends — that can create problems and divert time and effort from helping our clients,” Rowe says. Donations left in the parking lot will most likely be ruined and will have to be taken to the dump. So the items go to waste and volunteers are pulled from other duties to take care of what would otherwise be useful donations.
Contributions are also needed for The Coweta County Food Pantry. Housed in the same building as One Roof, the pantry was Rowe’s first project. After working to address food shortages for clients she soon realized their need for additional services. So One Roof was formed. She now serves as Executive Director for both operations.
One Roof clients do receive vouchers for food from the pantry, but food is available for any Coweta resident in need. Non-perishable food items are always needed, including canned fruits and vegetables, soups, pastas and sauces, peanut butter, and canned meats like tuna and beef stew.
One Roof has a variety of fundraisers throughout the year. “Our Resale House Yard Sale is Saturday, September 1, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, and then we have our Fifth Anniversary Inside/Outside Sale on Saturday, October 13, with the same hours,” says Rowe. “To help folks get ready for the holidays, we have a sale called Toys on the Lawn on December 17-18. It runs from 10:00 am until whenever all the toys are gone!”
Already on the calendar for 2013 are the annual Easter Egg Hunt on March 23 at The Dog House, and another collaboration with Resurrection Lutheran Church on a “lockout” event spotlighting homelessness and hunger (see sidebar below).
“We’ve been blessed to have wonderful volunteers, and we just couldn’t manage without them,” says Rowe. “But we need more help. Individuals are welcome to drop in, but we ask that groups call ahead to schedule a time.”
A variety of skills are needed for activities such as marketing (advertising, fundraising); administration (intake, telephone, filing, greeting); maintenance (cleaning, painting, carpentry, plumbing, etc.); and the Resale House (sorting, pricing, sales floor). “Especially helpful are volunteers that commit to coming on a weekly basis and learning the routines of different areas,” notes Rowe. She adds, “In the next few months, we hope to make some improvements to our building, so we could also use people with special skills in construction, and a licensed electrician.”
One Roof attracts dedicated volunteers like Terry Slaton, now in his fourth year. “Terry was unemployed when he first volunteered,” recalls Rowe, “but when he started a night job, he still came in every day. He’s helped with all kinds of needs around the building and at events and fundraisers all over the county. Recently as we were loading a truck with donations, a food store manager took notice of Terry, and that led to a second job for him. But he continues to work with us on his day off, and he stops by a lot of afternoons to give a ride home to one of the other volunteers.”
When Betty Jo Bearden was widowed a few years ago, she was determined not to just sit at home. Activities at the senior center weren’t enough, so she volunteered with One Roof. “She’s here most days,” says Rowe. “She handles the clothing for the Resale House and fills in wherever she’s needed.”
Wendell Truelove volunteers while still recovering from injuries by a hit and run driver. “He handles the register at the Resale House. Recently he got a night job as a cashier, but he continues to help us during the day. He’s a bright spot for so many people, the way he makes customers and clients feel welcome.”
One Roof seeks synergy by working with various other organizations. “For example, we attend community meetings with other agencies on a monthly basis,” explains Rowe. “It helps us to know about services that might benefit our clients. We work with Piedmont/Newnan Hospital and Samaritan Clinic; the Newnan Housing Authority; the probate, drug, and juvenile courts; the Sheriff’s Department; DFCS and Social Security; Pathways; Community Welcome House; and apartment complexes that offer subsidies.”
“We work with businesses too. For instance, The Times Herald, Nulink, and 92.5 The Bear help us with publicity and give us support any way they can. EMC makes a big difference — their “round-up” program helps a lot of our clients.”
“We strive to meet the needs of our community,” she concludes, “and the economy has caused us to work extra hard and think outside the box. We’re always trying to make con-nections with resources that can help us help our clients.”
For More Information
Bedding Down in a Box
Event Spotlights Community Needs
This July, Resurrection Lutheran Church held its first “lockout” to raise awareness of homelessness and hunger in Coweta. Teenagers from the congregation, under the supervision of Youth Director Connie Jones, slept overnight in cardboard boxes outside the church. The event also collected funds, food, and personal care items to help those in need. Derenda Rowe joined the youth and shared stories from One Roof to put a human face on the issue.
“I told them about some of the people we’ve helped — the elderly, newborn babies, teenagers, large families, the ill or disabled, and worst of all, people who were dying,” recalls Rowe. “Some had been sleeping in abandoned buildings or in the woods, and there were some men who were in danger of freezing to death one winter. Many also needed food and clothing.” She explained to the teens how the community can assist with necessities and steps towards self-sufficiency.
While recognizing the lockout as largely symbolic, participants found the experience packed a real punch. “The technology that we use everyday spoils us, and sometimes we forget what’s important or how good we actually have it,” reflects Christina Metcalf. “My friend and I didn’t have our cellphones with us, much less a pillow or a blanket. Nothing but a box — and we were hoping that it wouldn’t rain. It really opened my eyes to the harsh reality that not everybody has that nice loving family and a warm blanket.”
“I thought about how there might be homeless kids just sleeping under a bridge somewhere, while their parents stayed awake to watch over them,” she continues. “At the lockout, the adults fixed a nice hot breakfast for us in the morning, but the homeless miss a lot of meals, and don’t usually get such good food.”
“At 3:00 that morning,” recalls Jones, “I was the only one awake and I was so tired. I looked around at all the boxes and felt so vulnerable for all of us, the way we were exposed to everything. But of course, it was just a shadow of what it’s really like to be homeless.”
“Next year, we hope to expand the lockout to more of a community event,” adds Jones. “We’ll be holding it in May, since we discovered July conflicted with the mission trips of a lot of churches. We’ll also have collection boxes out at other churches, so people can make donations even if they can’t get by the actual site.”
“I really hope next year that more people attend the lockout,” says Christina Metcalf. Brandi Shroyer agrees: “I hope more kids experience a little of what homeless people have to go through, so they’ll
try to help them out.”