By Daniel Silliman
The chaplain held a stack of the red and yellow cards in both hands, split the deck, as if to shuffle, and gave one to Nikki Henderson.
Henderson, a Transportation Security Administration employee at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, clipped the card onto her badge, and held it up to the Wendy's clerk.
The card says, "God is Love," on the top, and "2008 Employee Discount Card" on the bottom. Henderson held it up and got a 10-percent discount on lunch.
Chaplain Chester Cook has the 2008 Employee Discount Cards available, now, for a $10 donation. Using the card, any of the roughly 50,000 people who work at Hartsfield get 10- to 15-percent discounts at almost all of the airport restaurants. Most people save $10 during the first few weeks they use the discount card, Cook said.
"It's easy to save a dollar a day," he said. "You save 60 cents on a combo meal."
In addition to saving money for employees, the card benefits the participating businesses by bringing them more customers, and the stores also get a chance to give a little back to the community, Cook said.
The program is the main fund-raiser for the airport's Interfaith Chapel and the chaplain's Emergency Assistance fund. The fund is used by chaplains to help people who are at the airport and in need.
"This is day-to-day, it's immediate emergency need," Cook said. "Mostly, we provide a little lunch, a little travel money, a little prayer and a little counseling."
Cook said he recently helped a woman who was leaving an abusive husband, who got on Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit and rode it as far as she could, and then, finding herself in the airport, didn't know what to do.
Emergency assistance money was used to get her to a woman's shelter. Emergency assistance money was also recently used, the chaplain said, to buy one man a bus ticket to Alabama and another man a bus ticket to Virginia.
"We're at the end of the line, for a lot of people," the chaplain said. "They come to us, and then we have to be very resourceful. When you don't have a lot of resources, you have to be resourceful. This ministry is really run week-to-week, financially. But this card has helped us have a little more financial security."
About 95 percent of the airport's concessionaires participate in the program, and about 15,000 employees carried a discount card last year. Participation has grown by about 30 percent a year, for the last three years, which Cook points to as a sign of success.
"This is good for everyone," Cook said. "It builds community and it puts a little bit of grace back into everything."
The cards are available to employees, for a $10 donation, at the Capitol City Bank, The Delta Employees Credit Union, and the airport chapel.