After recognizing the need to address hunger concerns in a county where the poverty rate is over 20 percent—markedly higher than the national average of 14.7 percent—members of churches from all over Haralson County, Georgia, collaborated in 2014 to repurpose a closed grocery store into a food bank and kitchen.
Today, the ministry serves nearly 30,000 people and is operating entirely from donations, grants and volunteer time, sending out 100 food boxes and serve 300-400 hot meals on a weekly basis.
Over the course of this past year, the ministry—run by the Community Christian Council—has added one more vital component.
The Council’s board chairman, Alan Kiker, said that as he and his co-workers have worked to serve the community, they’re seeing new ways to tackle the root cause of hunger. For them, this meant adding “empowerment programs” to educate and equip those they serve with the skills to succeed rather than merely survive.
In addition to forming key community partnerships, the council also started raising money in November of 2016 to convert half of their building into a community medical clinic. By February, they had raised enough money and construction was underway.
Along the way, the council received donated furniture, cabinetry, software and medical equipment—including a $26,000 ultrasound machine. That was when the council approached Karmen Stamps, executive director of Pregnancy Resource Center in Carrolton.
“The food outreach was only using one side of the building and they planned to use the other half for medical services,” Stamps said. “The board approached me and wanted to know if I would be interested in opening a satellite location in the medical clinic—rent free.”
Needless to say, Stamps jumped at the opportunity.
Opening in June, Pregnancy Resource Center’s second location offers free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, options counseling and prenatal services. Though the hours are limited for now, Stamps hopes to bump their availability up as time goes along.
“The school district runs a four-day a week schedule, so school is closed on Mondays,” Stamps said. “We wanted to accommodate the students and this gives them more flexibility with scheduling.”
In addition to offering full services at their main location in Carrolton—which includes education on parenting, birth, post-abortion recovery and Embrace Grace curriculum—the partnership with the council allows the organization to now offer their reproductive health services to women in an area over 25 miles away.
“A closed-down grocery store has become a one-stop partnership of hope and lives are being positively impacted,” Stamps said. “A group of people not only recognized the needs of a community, but made a decision to do something about it.”
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What initially began—and continues—as an outreach for the hungry has grown to include transportation, housing and utility assistance, employment opportunities and job training, GED and continuing education, life-skills classes, and now, medical and pregnancy help services.
“People who may not have had any opportunities to make a better life for themselves due to their circumstances, now can thrive at life,” Stamps said. “We are all God’s people, working together under one roof, with one goal in mind—to love our neighbors and serve the community. It is such a blessing to be a part of it.”