Students at HES learn about writing computer code.
By Destini Shope
In honor of Computer Science Education Week, December 8-12, Harmony Elementary students are participating in an Hour of Code. Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early,
HSR’s Dan Roberts maintains an amazing mental inventory of what size coats and jackets they have donated and matches them up with needs.
The first homeless person given a coat from the 2014 Holy Spirit Ranch/Progress drive looked clean-cut, professional, cold, wet and shivering.
While the Holy Spirit Ranch (HSR) team was unloading a portion of the coats, Thanksgiving meals, chairs and tables in a covered space near Woodruff Park two weeks ago, this man came up desperate for a coat. He was wearing a light windbreaker with a Ga. Tech logo on it. It was dripping wet; the man was wet and it was cold, rainy and windy on Sunday, November 23.
HSR team member Dan Roberts, who had an impressive mental inventory of what had been donated, found him a heavy trench-coat in his size that made the man appear even more like a business-professional walking to his office. Roberts also found the man a heavy duty, though lavender, winter hat which decidedly undid his professional appearance but was better than a bare head in the driving rain.
The man didn’t want to stick around for the service or free food; Roberts wished him well and he was on his way to whatever business homeless people in Atlanta have – hopefully finding somewhere warmer and drier.
Over the course of the afternoon, the Jasper based ministry provided coats and jackets to about 50 people and blankets to 25. They also served 150-200 Thanksgiving meals and performed a church service.
In all the Holy Spirit/Progress saw 250 coats donated (155 from the Progress office box, the rest from area churches and a local cleaner who joined the cause); also donated were 100 lighter jackets, vests or other garments and a good pile of gloves, hats, scarves.
A few calls for local needs were taken in Pickens and those people received top priority. Coats not used in either Pickens or Atlanta will be taken by HSR to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on a Christmas trip. There they will wrap the coats in gift boxes so the recipients are getting presents, not charity.
Leader Joe Betts and his wife Virginia, along with the volunteers, will have conducted services for the homeless in Atlanta without fail every Sunday for the past three years this February,
though they concede an ice storm or anything that makes travel unsafe will break their streak.
November 23rd had looked doubtful to me as I rode with them in the van to Atlanta, it was in the 40s and raining and smart phone apps gave no reason for optimism that the weather would improve. It didn’t.
Mr. Betts said on sunny days, they have no trouble using Woodruff Park for outside services, but lately they are challenged on rainy days finding anywhere covered. Not surprisingly, businesses don’t welcome crowds of homeless people to their space, even for a church service.
It’s ironic that Holy Spirit serves the most downtrodden people but to be effective it needs to base Sunday services in some of the priciest real estate in downtown Atlanta. Betts said if they moved any further out of downtown Atlanta, the homeless who roams the streets couldn’t get to them.
While searching for a spot to hold the Thanksgiving service, Betts was obviously worried that with the weather, few homeless people would venture out of whatever dry spot they had found to attend. He particularly worried that if they had a poor turnout, his core group of volunteers would be disappointed that their Thanksgiving cooking would go to waste.
Rather than random homeless people, their services attract a regular following. Joe, Virginia and the other volunteers can call by name and hug (Joe and Virgina both are big huggers) most of the 40 or so regulars who attend weekly services. Present are all demographic groups: some young enough to be college-aged, some old enough to have trouble walking; both white and black and men and women.
HSR team members have an intimate knowledge of their circumstances, challenges and problems.
And the homeless obviously have a devotion to HSR, which they consider their church. The rainy Sunday proved this as the crowd did come and very little of the food was left when they packed up late Sunday evening.
According to Joe, a large percentage of the homeless they see have some type of mental issue (and mental issues become by the far the most prominent category if you include alcohol or drug addictions). They regularly minister to one man who they say fell apart when his wife died a few years back and ended up losing everything, including his sanity.
The next group are people who just don’t want to work, getting by on handouts and possibly small government checks of some type. They get a tough love from the Betts and other volunteers.
The last group are people who have suddenly fallen homeless by a job loss or financial disaster. They said one young man they had seen several times came to Atlanta to live with relatives after his mother died elsewhere and ended up here with no one to take him in.
Betts said every week is unusual ministering to the homeless and November 23 was no exception with the weather and the fact that the one sheltered place they could find (in front of a building slated for demolition for a bigger building) was also occupied by an advocacy group trying to organize a march among the homeless to demand a nearby church open a women’s shelter.
There was a noticeable tension with the spokesman of the advocacy group who made a few comments that the church should postpone or cancel their Thanksgiving service so that more people would join the march.
Apparently, homeless people in Atlanta do prefer to eat home-cooked meals and pick up new jackets instead of marching with advocates. Needless to say, the crowd didn’t move out when the march began.
The point one of the advocates tried to make was the HSR was only giving food and clothing as temporary help rather than getting involved politically for something bigger. Maybe they have a point but not if you consider the Jasper-based HSR is there every week to help with a variety of needs. Apparently the speaker didn’t have a full grasp on the situation.
And at least on that cold, windy day, the homeless who came out, left stuffed full of traditional homemade food and were definitely warmer and drier with their new coats and blankets.
A good crowd turned out this afternoon for the groundbreaking of the Boys and Girls Club's new teen/youth center today. The building will sit behind the community center in Roper Park.
Above, Don Russell, a founding member of the Boys and Girls Club of North Georgia, addresses the crowd. See next week's issue for more information on this great local program.
Georgia’s winter weather outlook shows chance of colder weather and heavier precipitation than previous years
Cove Road from last winter. If predictions are right, we'll be seeing even more snow this winter. Georgia's yearly average snow amounts have risen from 2 inches to 3.4 inches in recent years.
A Magical Christmas Eve on Candy Cane Lane this Friday and Saturday.
[Three shows - Friday, December 12th at 7 p.m. and Saturday, December 13th at 2:30 or 7 p.m.
Tickets are available at the door for $12 or advanced tickets may be purchased for $10 at FX Hair Design & Color Studio, 1052 East Church St. or call 706-253-5188.]
The story of Christmas family traditions will be told through song and dance this Friday and Saturday at the PHS Performing Arts Center as North Georgia Acting Company puts on an absolutely beautiful show for our holiday entertainment.
There’s nothing like a Christmas musical to get us ready for the holidays so grab your kids and grandkids, friends and neighbors and make plans to see A Magical Christmas Eve on Candy Cane Lane Friday and Saturday. The show is guaranteed to uplift your heart and boost your holiday spirit.