Thanos Skouteris, a senior member of Alpha Kappa Psi, talks with a child while he eats at Athens Area Homeless Shelter in Athens, Ga., Thu., Nov. 15, 2012. (AJ Reynolds/Staff)
About 10 members of the University of Georgia business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi carved out time from their schedules last week to give a gift that in many ways is the most basic for humans: the gift of sustenance.
They, like dozens of others will and have throughout the holidays, went to the Athens Area Homeless Shelter to prepare a meal for the mothers and children there who needed to take up residence as a respite from hard times.
“Me and the whole fraternity believe that it is good to give back, especially to the community in which you live,” said the co-ed organization’s community service chair, Elise Diehl.
Holiday volunteers are in no short supply at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter. In fact, if you wanted to spend a night or two helping to prepare food or baby-sit, they ask that you keep an eye on the post-holiday season.
Dinnertime volunteer opportunities there already are filled for November and December, but January and February show more holes than not. And not having volunteers, shelter Director Katie Smith said, makes it harder for the residents to get dinner.
“We still have to feed our residents every day of the year, regardless of if we have volunteers,” she said.
The shelter usually has about six mothers and 15 children living there who otherwise would be homeless, Smith said, and they need dinner every day of the year. It is particularly hard to find people to prepare dinner for the residents in January and early summer, as many UGA students have emptied out of Athens by then, Smith said.
“There’s a lot of places that have a holiday blitz, so we just want to ask that people keep us in mind year-round,” Smith said.
Not to say that the shelter doesn’t need any help between November and the New Year.
It is entering into its third year of a holiday donation drive, where it asks for gift cards instead of toys and other presents, which allows the mothers to buy their family Christmas presents, Smith said.
“It empowers them to do their own Christmas shopping for their families,” she said.
Gift cards to Walmart and Target are in the highest demand, Smith said.
The shelter also is in need of general supplies — toiletry items, such as shampoo and toothpaste, high-efficiency laundry detergent, diapers and the like. Professional clothes and clothes that can be worn to job interviews are also in demand, Smith said.
But if meeting the families in person is more your style, Smith said volunteers can make the experience into whatever they want. Some volunteers will baby-sit while mothers take classes or go to home meetings, building bonds with the children along the way. Others will prepare the food and enjoy it with the families, or merely hang back and clean up. Still more will share special skills in parenting or cooking or professional life with the mothers in classes.
“Our volunteer opportunities can really be anything the groups can want it to be,” Smith said.
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AAHS is asking for donations of gift cards that
will allow our residents to buy personalized gifts for their kids from
traditional superstores (e.g., Wal-Mart, Target).
We welcome all gift cards from $5, $10, $100 or more. If you would
like to give, please make your donations by December 14th so that we can
have enough time to organize our shopping trip. We would love to
receive gift cards, but if you would rather donate cash or check, we
will buy the gift cards with the money you give us. You can come by the
shelter any time (directions below) to drop off your donations any
weekday from 10AM to 6PM. Alternatively, you can make your donation
with a credit or debit card on our website (www.helpathenshomeless.org) by clicking on "Give" and following the instructions.
Thank you so much for helping to make Christmas morning a fun and
exciting time for the residents of Athens Area Homeless Shelter!
On behalf of the Board, the staff, the women and children who live at our shelter,
and the families that we serve through our programming --
thank you so very much for the overwhelming support that you showed for this year’s Harvest for the Homeless! It was our largest and most successful event ever -
a HUGE thank you to all who contributed.
You’ve helped make it possible for AAHS to continue doing our work!