By Joel Hall
For the last six years, Feed My People Food Pantry and Thrift Store has provided food and clothing to needy people in the Southern Crescent. Starting Friday, the non-profit ministry will also offer patrons the skills needed to provide for themselves.
The grand opening of Feed My People's Wisdom Training and Empowerment Center will take place on Friday at 11 a.m., at 6045 North Henry Boulevard in Stockbridge, next door to the food pantry's present location.
During the grand opening, the food pantry will give away meat, frozen foods, canned goods, clothing for men, women, and children, and shoes and accessories.
Allyson Lewis, executive director of Feed My People, said the Wisdom Training and Empowerment Center fulfills the original vision of the food pantry's founder, Annette Lee, which is teaching people how to do for themselves. She said people who come to the pantry soon will be able to receive job training, computer-skills training, alcohol and drug counseling, parenting advice, and other center services, free of charge.
"Her dream and passion was not to just feed and clothe you, but to educate you," Lewis said. "If you have some of those skills, you can take those into the community and acquire work. We're not just giving them the fish, we are teaching them to fish."
The new Wisdom Training and Empowerment Center adds another 3,200 square feet to the pantry's 5,000 square feet of existing space.
Kai Dean, director of the center, said it has 15 computers, which will be used for job training, workshops, and other activities. She added that the center eventually will be used to conduct GED (General Educational Development) classes, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, drug screenings, and will be a host site for food stamp applications.
"In order to really get them back on their feet, they really need other services," Dean said. "Before, we were referring them to other people, but we didn't have those on-site services. We were only providing them a temporary fix. When someone can get that one-stop shop, in terms of their social services ... it's not putting the client in that circle."
Dean said the first programs the center will roll out are Microsoft Office suite training for adults, as well as a Summer Camp Enrichment program for foster children in elementary and middle schools. Children enrolled in the camp will participate in decision-making workshops, character-building exercises, and educational field trips around the City of Atlanta.
Lewis believes the possibilities for the new center are endless. "It's endless, because we can offer almost anything over there," Lewis said. "Whatever the child is lacking, we want to fine tune to that need, and reach out to the entire family. We want to offer these services where people can get back to being productive citizens in our community."
For more information about the grand opening, call (678) 565-7800.