By ARCHBISHOP Wilton D. Gregory | Published December 15, 2005
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Advent and Christmas seasons are traditionally times of preparation, expectation, joy and happiness. However, this Advent season there is one community in Atlanta, some 50,000 evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, who will not fully share in this wondrous season. These people have recently experienced sorrow, hopelessness and fear; their lives have been shattered and changed forever by last summer’s disastrous hurricanes.
The evacuees who relocated to Atlanta have received disaster assistance provided by various government agencies, national charities and community and religious organizations. I am extremely proud of the way the Catholic community of North Georgia has supported this relief effort. Our Catholic Charities Office and Catholic Social Services agency have led the way in establishing Catholic involvement in this area, but more than 55 Catholic parishes have also participated in individual ways. Some examples of your charity in this regard are your generous financial contributions to Catholic Charities USA, the many actual relief trips/ missions of mercy to the Gulf states by groups or individuals, the sponsorship or adopting of families, parishes and schools from the decimated areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and the forming of coalitions with other faith-based communities here in the Atlanta area to assist evacuee families with their basic needs.
However, with many of these evacuees never intending to return to their former homes, there is much to do in the form of follow-up services. In fact, the relief effort is expected to continue long into the foreseeable future. Five thousand evacuee families have been living in hotels and motels in the Atlanta area since their arrival. These families have recently been asked by FEMA to leave their hotels by February 7, 2006, and relocate to area apartments. Having lost nearly all they had when the hurricanes destroyed their homes, these families have no furniture or practical household goods. Their situation is now even more critical with the winter weather upon us as even those who have jobs do not have cold weather clothing.
To respond to this critical situation, the Office of Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul Council of the Atlanta Archdiocese are jointly conducting a furniture and winter coat drive especially for these families. Information about the collection drive has been given to every parish in the Atlanta Archdiocese, or it can be obtained by calling the Office of Catholic Charities or St. Vincent de Paul Society directly. This Catholic community effort is part of a larger family sponsorship program involving other community partners and the Atlanta Regional Council of Churches.
Therefore, I prayerfully ask for your continued generosity to this last group of families by becoming actively involved in this effort. In the spirit of this Advent season when we anticipate the birth of the Child Jesus, I ask that your family join with your parish community and assist us to welcome these strangers among us with the love and hope of Christ. By sacrificing one gift to each of your family members, by cleaning out garages, basements and the children’s rooms you can help provide them with the essentials needed for warmth and work and a functional home situation to return to each evening. Let us reach out to help and restore to the evacuees the dignity and hope each of God’s people deserves.
Sincerely in Christ,
Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Atlanta
Please note: The following items are desperately needed: New and gently used furniture (chairs, tables, end tables, card table sets), lamps, dinnerware, flatware and glassware sets, full and twin sheet sets, blankets, towels (hand, bath and face), cookware and kitchen utensils, tool kits, flashlights and batteries, shower curtains and rings, bath mats, irons and ironing boards, blankets and toaster ovens. Winter coats and jackets are also needed, sizes infant to adult. Due to staff and facility limitations, other clothing and household items cannot be accepted at this time.
For drop-off information contact Ben Rodriguez (404) 396-8278 or Jane Currie (678) 462-4139 at St. Vincent de Paul, Joseph Krygiel (404) 885-7476 or Bobbie Friel (404) 885-7212 at Catholic Charities, or visit either Web site: www.svdp.org and www.archatl.com. Items may be dropped off Wednesday or Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at either of the following two St. Vincent de Paul locations: 4660 Hammermill Road, Tucker, GA 30084, or at 3860 Green Industrial Way, Atlanta, GA 30341.