By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 2, 2022
SANDY SPRINGS—Danny Sequeira thought he’d experiment in 2021 by opening his parish food bank mid-week to see if anyone showed up. If no one walked through the door, he’d use his laptop to finish work projects with the time.
St. Patrick Church, Norcross, had an appointment-only pantry. Sequeira was willing to risk his free time to see if the pantry open with regular hours could aid more families.
He was proved right. And as people came, he invited them to pray.
“Every time I prayed with these folks, especially mostly women and children will come, they cry because they never realized that somebody is taking the time to pray with them and for them,” he said.
That set the tone as the number of neighbors grew from less than a handful to 30 families per week, with about 180 people fed.
“Slowly but surely, as good as God is, I found word spread that here’s a place that they give us food, they treat us with dignity and love,” he said.
At St. Vincent de Paul Georgia’s first “Morning of Hope,” Sequeira’s service was one of many efforts spotlighted. In Georgia, there are about 70 conferences of St. Vincent de Paul serving families in need. Sequeira’s is one of them.
Hundreds hear stories about SVdP
The Aug. 25 breakfast event, held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North, was the organization’s largest gathering of the year. The funds raised from Morning of Hope will be directed toward programs to support more than 150,000 women, men and children. The funds are targeted to assist in areas of housing, hunger and health services.
St. Vincent de Paul Georgia CEO Patrick O. McNulty said the organization has contributed some $25 million in aid to people in need.
The organization is achieving several milestones, he said. In recent months, the pharmacy has attracted more patients, surpassing 1,000 prescriptions a month. Taking into account the region’s housing crunch and spiraling costs, a housing director has been appointed to focus on the issue.
A crowd of 400 people heard inspiring words by former Georgia Bulldog football kicker standout Kevin Butler, Georgia Power CEO Chris Womack and stories of resilience from families served by the organization.
Derrick Crumpler receives his medication from the St. Vincent de Paul Community Pharmacy. A former athlete, Crumpler said he was “a little arrogant in my health.”
One day his friend carried a weakened Crumpler to get emergency medical care. The work of the pharmacy staff stabilized his health, giving him room to care for other needs, he said.
“Every time I went, I felt better, better and better,” said Crumpler, adding the aides are warm and compassionate. “They care about you.”
Housing concerns get attention
St. Vincent de Paul Georgia lauded Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens for his efforts to secure affordable housing in the community. He received the 2022 Hope Builder Award.
Mayor Dickens described his vision for Atlanta as a place where families can thrive. Caring for people will be an effort across the area to fix a “tale of two cities,” with multi-generational poverty and the well-to-do, he said.
“There are certainly no easy answers, but we certainly won’t stop until we see the load, the barriers lifted, the load lightened off people’s backs here in this metro region,” he said.
The region’s housing affordability was flagged in a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. According to research, a typical wage earner cannot pay for a median priced house in the community.
The report uses the generally accepted standard that housing costs should be about 30% of a household’s pre-tax income. Any cost above the rate is considered unaffordable.
The Home Ownership Affordability Monitor (HOAM) Index in June reported the median income at $73,579, while the median housing cost was $400,308.
For Atlanta, the Dickens’ Affordable Housing Strike Force has set a goal to build or preserve 20,000 units of affordable housing. One initiative is to prioritize and streamline development projects on publicly owned land.
Since Mayor Dickens took office, 1,240 affordable units in Atlanta have been completed, according to a press release. An additional 4,000 affordable units are under construction.
At Norcross’ St. Patrick Church, there are so many volunteers to help that Sequeira has an eye out for his next project. The program got a $99,000 grant from the City of Norcross, with $25,000 dedicated to emergency food aid. He is seeking to collaborate with other local nonprofits, like Helping Mamas, which provides diapers, tampons and sanitary pads to the largely female clients.
“I believe it’s all the work of the Holy Spirit, one thing, and I can’t believe it’s a little over a year, I was just by myself, looking, staring at the four walls,” Sequeira said.
For more information on the work of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, visit www.svdpgeorgia.org.