Love Thy Neighbor
“We spread the love.” That’s how Laura Drake sums up the work of Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry in February — and every other month of the year. In 2020, that love was spread farther than ever before as the assistance program she directs distributed more than a million pounds of food to families struggling financially.
The cooperative ministry is one of several faith-based programs that received a financial grant from Walton EMC’s member-funded Operation Round Up to help neighbors in need amid pandemic closures and rising unemployment.
Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry
Last year, ORU grants helped the ministry representing 25 area churches care for a record number of families in Snellville, Grayson and a portion of Loganville. The program provides food and non-food pantry items as well as financial assistance for medicine, utility and housing expenses.
Assistance requests skyrocketed by 245 percent during the early days of the pandemic. About 1,500 of the households served were first-time visitors.
While every ORU grant is used responsibly, one stands out as special, said Drake.
“We have a retired service truck from Walton EMC that was donated to us through Operation Round Up,” she said about the vehicle used to transport food and supplies. “We named him Walt in honor of the co-op members who contribute to Operation Round Up.”
The Salvation Army of Gwinnett County
Many new faces are among those picking up food boxes at The Salvation Army facility in Lawrenceville. At the height of COVID shutdowns, more than 400 cars came through the drive-through distribution line each Tuesday.
“We have seen an over 100 percent increase in emergency food needs and these funds have allowed us to continue to meet the growing need,” said Captain Paul Ryerson, the unit’s commanding officer.
Among those picking up food were local Asian-Americans who lost jobs as the pandemic spread. Gwinnett County has one of the largest concentrations of Asian-Americans in the South. To address their specific dietary needs, items such as rice were packed in the boxes.
ACTS Oconee County Food Pantry
Dennis Clarke, co-chairman of ACTS (Area Churches Together Serving), takes great satisfaction in knowing his Oconee County neighbors aren’t going hungry. Supplies and volunteers have remained steady at the Bogart food and clothing pantry that currently serves about 200 families each month.
“We have not missed opening a single day that was scheduled,” said Clarke. Along with co-chair Randy Dawson, he oversees the outreach ministry supported by 29 area churches.
Clarke, a Walton EMC customer-owner and ORU participant, wants others to know that the simple act of rounding up their monthly electric bill is an easy way to care for neighbors in need. He reminds: “Operation Round Up participation creates the funding that makes so many people happier and healthier.”
Neighbors helping neighbors
Walton EMC customer-owners who choose to participate in ORU agree to have their monthly electric bill "rounded up" to the next dollar. For example, if your bill is $52.51, you pay $53. The extra 49 cents goes to a special fund that is combined with donations from other co-op members and then distributed to local organizations and groups needing financial assistance.
Customer-owners combined their pennies to contribute $595,979 last year. Since its inception, more than $6.8 million in ORU grants have benefitted local groups and individuals in our communities.
The average ORU participant gives an average 50 cents a month, or $6 a year. Any administrative costs are absorbed by Walton EMC, so 100 percent of your donation is used to make life better. Your donation is also tax deductible. Sign up today!
The latest grants made possible by your donations total $72,468
- Books for Keeps – $5,000 to provide books to students from low-income families who don’t have access to books outside school. Clarke.
- Burn Foundation of America, Inc. – $5,000 for uninsured and unemployed families to receive necessities while their loved one is being treated at Georgia burn centers. Entire territory.
- Camp Amplify – $8,000 for camp to improve emotional, educational and social outcomes for underserved children. DeKalb, Gwinnett.
- Downtown Ministries – $5,000 for the Our Daily Bread Kitchen that provides meals for anyone in need. Clarke.
- The Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta – $500 to provide fresh air outings for special needs adults. Gwinnett.
- Hadassah’s Harvest – $5,000 for COVID response to those who need food, housing, essential needs and employment. Gwinnett.
- Make-A-Wish Georgia – $5,000 to provide wishes for seriously ill children. Entire territory.
- Mercy Health Center – $4,994 for a pharmacy dispensing system to assist low-income and uninsured people. Barrow, Clarke, Oconee.
- Monroe-Walton Center of the Arts – $8,000 for art classes for the developmentally delayed and visually impaired, art kits for children who experience trauma and creative therapy workshops. Barrow, Gwinnett, Newton, Oconee, Walton.
- Prevent Child Abuse Athens – $3,000 to assist in keeping in contact with at-risk first-time parents. Barrow, Clarke, Morgan, Oconee, Walton.
- Sisu of Georgia – $2,500 for financial assistance to children with disabilities. Gwinnett.
- Walton County Helping Hand Club – $3,000 to provide gifts for needy children during Christmas. Walton.
- American Red Cross of Northeast Georgia – $10,000 to provide emergency food, shelter and medical needs. Entire territory.
- Three families – $7,474 for emergency assistance.