A friend in need is a friend indeed, as the saying goes.
It's a philosophy at the heart of an East Atlanta initiative designed to help fellow Villagers through the friendship of community.
By unanimous vote in May 2010, the East Atlanta Community Association (EACA) began its Neighbor in Need initiative, modeled after the Neighbor in Need program which serves the East Lake, Edgewood and Kirkwood communities. The mission is to raise funds and complete emergency home repairs for seniors who don’t have the financial means to do so.
In today’s recession, many older folks in our communities struggle making ends meet on fixed incomes. They have spent their lives working and building their neighborhoods into what they are today, but often find themselves without heat or air conditioning or with a leaky roof and unable to afford to fix it. And, in the worst of cases, they may be forced to sell the home they have lived in for most of their adult lives.
Kyle Caldwell began the Neighbor in Need program in 2007 with the purpose to help keep these seniors in the homes they deserve to live in. The organization has done a tremendous service for the neighbors it serves, from the small things (fixing the heat or air conditioning in a home) to the large (replacing a roof).
Over lunch with Caldwell last summer, Austin Dickson, president of the EACA, decided a program like this was just what East Atlanta needed.
“It means a lot that we can do these things for our neighbors,” Dickson said. “We’re making simple, emergency repairs that will improve folks' quality of life. We’re not trying to decorate or renovate people’s homes. But, none of our neighbors should ever be without hot water or heating and air.”
In a heartbreaking letter to the EACA, a resident expressed her hope for the program to help her father, an East Atlanta resident for more than 40 years, who was stricken with Alzheimer's. On a fixed income herself, she had just returned to the neighborhood to care for him full-time.
"My father is a good man, who has done what he knew best for our family, having come from a small town, and being a sharecropper's son that was denied his final year of college due to the Vietnam draft (and life happening), but he should not have to lose his hard-earned home..."
The Neighbor in Need initiative stepped in to take care of the repairs needed.
The goal is to primarily use contractors in the East Atlanta community to complete the repairs, such as Fire and Ice which recently worked on a project. However, the East Atlanta initiative draws from Neighbor in Needs’ partners (such as Cool Ray Heating and Air, USA Roofing and Windows, etc.) if need be.
Since August, the Neighbor in Need initiative in East Atlanta has raised more than $16,000 and within the last 3 months, it has completed three repair jobs, including restoring hot water for a neighbor known as “Miss Lucy,” who has lived in the community for more than 30 years.
After the job was completed, Dickson checked up on Miss Lucy. She expressed her extreme gratitude and told him she had taken her first warm bath in two years. In chatting with Dickson, Miss Lucy alerted him there was another neighbor down the street who had been living with no water and using one space heater to heat her home in the winter.
It’s this word of mouth action and neighbors advocating for other neighbors that the program is based on.
“We go out in the community and we’ve spoken at churches,” says Jeff Whitehouse, chairman of the East Atlanta Neighbor in Need initiative. “But, the goal is really for neighbors to be checking in on one another, just talking to the elderly woman next door and seeing if she’s getting by okay.”
The East Atlanta Neighbor in Need initiative raises funds through fundraisers and grants and receives donations from local churches and individuals.
Wondering what the money actually does? A $250 donation can fix a neighbor’s broken window or door. A $500 donation will get hot water running in a senior’s home. And a $1,000 will cover a portion of an expensive roof or central air conditioning repair.
“Our community has changed a lot over the years,” Whitehouse said. “This program allows us to keep our residents that have been here for so long, the ones that have contributed and built the community into what it is today.”
How you can help:
This Saturday, March 26, a poker tournament will be held at Midway Pub to benefit Neighbor in Need.
10 a.m.; $50 per person; prizes are awarded to the winners. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You can also visit the EACA website’s Neighbor in Need page to donate.