Imagine that you are a parent with young children, and because of circumstances such as illness, loss of a job, or other unforeseen events, you suddenly lose your home. For many families in Clarke and neighboring counties, this is not an imaginary scenario but reality. In fact, there are approximately 200 students in the Clarke County School District who are homeless on any given day, and families are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.
This month’s volunteer recognition focuses on the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens (IH-NA), a non-profit organization which was formed in 2001 to address the specific needs of fami-lies with children who are in crisis homeless situations. IHNA partners with congregations across different faiths and denominations to use church facilities as temporary housing from 5 pm to 7 am when these facilities are not in use. Each host congregation houses families 4 to 5 times throughout the year.
UUFA has participated in IHNA for more than a decade, initially serving as a host congregation with leadership from Hank Raichle, who was on the board of the IHNA at that time, working with Patty Freeman-Lynde. In recent years, UUFA has served as a support congregation during the weeks when guests stay overnight at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. UUFA volunteers cook and serve meals, play games after dinner with families, spend the night at Holy Cross, and host at the IHNA day center on weekends. Our next host week runs March 12 through 19.
Julie Sapp has been our IHNA coordinator for several years. She schedules volunteers and does a great job of organizing to meet the needs of guest families during their stay at our partner church. Our volunteers who work with her are Iva King, Molly Williams, Mark and Marta Dan-iell, Jean Bleyle, Jane King, Suzanne Murphy, Mary Jean Hartel, Laura Leiden, Paula Keam, Mar-guerite and Will Holmes, Hester Meyers, Mark and Janet Hodges, Carol-Lee Baker, Vivian Pres-ton Sellers, Diane Bridges, Rosemary Woodel, Bill and Peggy Horton, and Steven Pottier.
The Justice Cluster’s Karen Solheim notes that these IHNA volunteers are an example of how the Social Action Committee puts our values into actions for the benefit of our community.
by Debbie Hardegree, Volunteer Recognition Team