By Marisa Zhuno
In a humble brick building in Chamblee, Georgia, women laugh and smile and share stories while bustling through tiny hallways and crowded offices. Cheerful posters and inspirational quotes line the walls. What may look like the simple gathering of friends is actually a well-oiled machine of productivity and proactive community involvement. These volunteers are the foundation of Assistance League of Atlanta – a nonprofit organization designed to provide various kinds of support to children and adults in the Atlanta area. One of its most successful programs is Operation School Bell, which provides school children with brand new outfits and health kits. Since they provide these kits to over 10,000 students each year, the storage room is filled to capacity. Donations to the thrift store, housed downstairs, spill into any available space. The thrift store was voted one of the best in the area, which is quite an honor since all of the proceeds go directly to the organizations Assistance League supports. In addition to these programs and more, the ladies provide outstanding support to the Gateway Center, through a partnership with People Making Progress.
Started by a woman named Dorothy Miller, People Making Progress works to give men and women with Down syndrome a chance at an independent and dignified life. The men and women are in a residential style program, and participate in a variety of activities. Each week they are involved in volunteer efforts, including time at Assistance League. These men and women are cheerful and eager to give back to the community. Twice a week, People Making Progress set up shop to assemble hygiene kits to send to the Gateway Center; seeing the group regularly at Assistance League encourages the other volunteers greatly. Regular volunteer efforts like these help the Gateway Center provide reliable and continuous assistance to clients experiencing homelessness.
Back in 2004, Assistance League saw the potential that the Gateway Center held in its efforts to end chronic homelessness in Atlanta. Assistance League of Atlanta decided to partner with Gateway Center to become a “permanent source of giving pride to men and women” through their involvement, and have since provided the Gateway Center with their time, financial support, and need-specific donations. With this pledge in mind, Assistance League donates thousands of hygiene kits, assembled by People Making Progress. The kits include bars of soap, razors, and other small items clients can use when taking a hot shower – a service Gateway provides to men, women and children on a daily basis. The men and women that pass through the Gateway Center come from all walks of life; no one can be sure what circumstances lead to a life on the streets, and any small service can become a step in the arduous task of ending chronic homelessness. Thousands of hygiene kits give men and women dignity and a sense of pride that lead to greater confidence and opportunities for job training and sustainable housing. Meeting immediate needs, like a hot shower and bar of soap, paves the way for attaining long term goals, like employment and stable housing. In their own words, Assistance League hopes their donations and partnership will have clients “feeling a little more human.”
When the Assistance League says “Whatever you need, just ask” they mean it. Gateway Center can count on their help for in-kind donations like linens and work boots, and even computers for the growing lab, as well as financial support. The donations and sincere desire to help, paired with a smile and cheerful spirit, make Assistance League ideal partners in ending chronic homelessness. Without the help of committed partners the work Gateway Center can accomplish diminishes. Thank you Assistance League of Atlanta!