By Joel Hall
The Children's Restoration Network (CRN) is currently collecting food to make sure homeless mothers and children in 18 Atlanta counties are able to enjoy Thanksgiving.
From now until Nov. 15, CRN is working with local churches and aid organizations to amass "a dumbfounding mountain of food," which will then be distributed to homeless mothers and children, in shelters across metro Atlanta from Nov. 16-18, according to network CEO, Cliff Kinsey.
Since it's inception ten years ago, CRN has worked to address the needs of homeless women and children, whom Kinsey says are often overlooked during the seasons in which people are most charitable.
"For so long, programs were geared toward men, while women with children make up the fastest-growing section of the homeless population," said Kinsey. He said that on any given night, a few thousand children across metro Atlanta spend their nights in shelters or group homes.
Tawana Tarno, executive director of Calvary Refuge Center in Forest Park, said that statistically, there are now more homeless women and children than men, and the people who seek shelter at the center reflect those statistics.
"I think that when people think of homelessness, they think of the elderly gentleman who is pushing the grocery cart down the street," said Tarno. "We serve men, women, and children, but what we serve here is mostly women."
Tarno said including those staying in motels or transitional living situations, currently, there are 2,300 homeless children registered in the Clayton County school system.
"You can stand on the corner (of Jonesboro and Thurmond Roads in Forest Park) and see that it is not a man pushing a buggy out there, anymore," said Tarno. "The grocery cart has now been replaced by a baby stroller."
Dawn Murray, founder of House of Dawn, a second-chance home for teenage mothers in Jonesboro, said that for the last few years, CRN has provided House of Dawn with the supplies for an impressive Thanksgiving dinner for those staying there.
"Children's Restoration [Network] has blessed us with Thanksgiving for the last couple of years and it has been a tremendous help," said Murray. "We have had churches to offer assistance, but if CRN wasn't there ... it would have had to come out of our operational expenses. To have an organization come out there and say that they are going to take care of that for you, it is really a blessing," said Murray.
Kinsey said in addition to food items, CRN is looking for volunteers to distribute the food at the North River Shopping Center, located at 8801 Roswell Road in Atlanta, on Nov. 16 and 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- and on Nov. 18, from noon until the food is gone.
"People who have something to give, whether it is a few dollars or a little bit of time, it really makes a difference," said Kinsey.
To locate food pick-up sites, or to volunteer, go to www.childrn.org, or call (770) 649-7117.