It's been One Roof's hardest year helping the needy
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
“This is the hardest year that we’ve had — ever.”
Derenda Rowe has seen some hard years. The executive director of One Roof Ecumenical Alliance Outreach and the Coweta Community Food Pantry, Rowe addresses a variety of needs as people come to the One Roof building at 320-C Temple Ave.
A number of families came to the One Roof center seeking clothes for children as school resumed this past week. The thrift store generally has clothes for young children on hand.
“We have to really scrape for teenager-type clothes, because they usually wear them out,” Rowe said.
“Clothing is not our biggest problem,” she said. Helping “people who are moving into a new place because they’ve had a fire or been evicted” has been a real challenge, according to Rowe.
Those families often need furniture – particularly beds and mattresses.
Nine families “have come to me because they were homeless” since the first of the month, Rowe said. “At least five of them included three or four children.”
She knows of one case where a family has been living in a tent in a campground in an adjacent county. A man living in his car told Rowe he rarely gets a hot meal and must buy perishables in small quantities because he has no refrigerator.
Rowe said One Roof has not had financial assistance to help the families. She also said donations have been slim — both for One Roof and for the food pantry.
“Everything is slow to come,” she observed. “Our shelves are pitiful. Every three weeks I’m spending a little bit of money on food.”
She noted the annual Can-A-Thon, a major source of food and funding for the food pantry, “is still almost four months away.” A local Eagle Scout is planning a food drive to try to provide some extra cans and boxes until Can-A-Thon time.
Rowe said One Roof helped 97 children be prepared for the start of school.
She also said helping agencies and ministries in the community are making concerted efforts to work together. That is making the dearth of help and donations even harder for frontline assistance workers.
“It’s really hard when you look down your list of places and you know all of those people are going to have to tell them no, also. All of the agencies do so much good. We’ve worked so hard to work together,” Rowe said.
Toni Rios, who works for the Southern Crescent Area on Aging, serves on the boards of both Resource Coweta and Coweta Family Connection. The two are coalitions of helping groups.
Rios said that – across the country – many non-profits have closed their doors because of a lack of support.
She said some experts are seeing a weariness among donors in the face of such great need. Rios also said many people know others who are homeless, hungry or otherwise in need.
“They’re starting to give to people that they know instead of to agencies,” Rios said.
Rowe said some “donors who donate regularly” help One Roof continue its outreach efforts. She said a small church gives $150 a month, which pays the ministry’s pest control bill. A family donates $400 monthly.
Some traditional sources of funding have disappeared, been greatly or been redirected to other organizations.
Rowe reflected on the great needs in Coweta County. At one time, the food pantry allowed families to get food only once a year.
That policy has been revisited. “The need has changed. The job situation has changed. The family unit has changed,” Rowe said. She said some Coweta homes now have 12-13 people living in them.
She said the food pantry fed 6,000 people in 2001 – a number that had risen to 20,047 in 2011.
People who are marginally surviving find “everything costs more at the grocery store,” Rowe noted. She also said dependable, affordable daycare is an issue for many women looking for work.
“A lot of moms – when they do get a job – transportation is a problem,” Rowe said.