Back in early December, my friend Larry Flaxman, asked me to help him with a charity project that he wanted to do here in Atlanta. It is called Project Winter Warm Up. I gladly volunteered to help him with his project. His goal was set to a modest 100 winter coats that could be distributed to some of Atlanta’s homeless. Through the use of a close network of friends, over 160 coats were collected as well as shoes, hats, knit hats, scarves, gloves and socks. We also put together care packages that had small items of food, soap, handi wipes, etc. Distribution day was set for the Saturday before Christmas. We gathered at the Atlanta Metaphysical Center, which was gracious enough to loan us their space to store and sort the coats as they were collected. We spent the afternoon sorting the coats by size and then we bagged a coat with a small care package as well as a knit hat and a scarf. Each bag was marked with the size coat it contained and then loaded into the van and truck for the trip to downtown Atlanta. We also had a great deal of children’s coats as well, while we really hoped that we would not see any children on the streets of downtown, we decided to take a bag of about a dozen children’s coats in various sizes. We ended up with three vehicles to transport all the coats, two for the coats and one for assorted smaller items including shoes and blankets. We made our way to an area of downtown where a large number and homeless gather while the wait to get into a shelter operated by the Metro Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless. We pulled onto Pine St. from Peachtree and parked on the sidewalk. What we saw was overwhelming. We thought we would have a difficult time giving out over 160 coats, but we quickly realized we would be able to distribute them all here. Fortunately, we had loaded each car with certain sizes and were able to direct people to the appropriate vehicle for their size. In the near chaos that ensued, we were able to distribute all the coats, blankets, shoe’s etc. in under 20 minutes. Larry had asked me to take pictures and I did what I could, but things happened so fast that, by the time my van was empty of coats, it was nearly over for the other cars as well. Then, coming around the corner, was a family with four children making their way to the shelter, we took the bag of children’s coats down to the corner where the shelter had a separate entrance for the women and children. It was a heart wrenching scene as the coats were being distributed and more children came out of the shelter, the dozen or so children’s coats we brought were quickly gone. I opted not to photograph that part of the distribution as it was taking an emotional toll on everyone and it just didn’t feel right at the moment, but next time, I feel like I must photograph it to show everyone that there is more help needed than we realize. There is already discussion of future projects and I am really looking forward to helping how ever I can.
It was a very humbling experience that brought tears to nearly everyone’s eyes. One fellow asked us why we were doing this and we all had a different answer, but they all had the same general meaning “because we can and because we should”. This fellow tried to stay tough and even said he didn’t want to be seen crying on the street, but he couldn’t hold back and neither could we. With tears in our eyes, handshakes and hugs were given all around. The whole thing was worth it for that one moment.
Below is a short photo essay of project.
|Sorting the coats prior to bagging.|
|Sherry modeling some of crazy stuff mixed in with the donations we received.|
|Larry and Jason taking a break after sorting and bagging all the coats by size.|
|The crew from left to right: Shane Garner, Jason Brown, Kaye Beaudrot, Sherry Davenport, Larry Flaxman, Carl Woodall, Lisa Shackelford, Clint Brownlee, Jordan Duncan also helped but missed the picture.|
|Shane’s packed suv.|
|My packed min van.|
|Handing out the coats|
|People with their new coats as well as looking at the shoes to see if they have their size.|
|We are done and preparing to leave after everything was given out.|