Every Wednesday, some 40 volunteers gather at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church on North Peachtree Road to cook, organize and welcome families and individuals in need. Malachi’s Storehouse has been in operation for more than 20 years and has grown from a small organization of a few church members to a large-scale operation that partners with numerous local businesses.
Wednesdays begin early for the volunteers; most arrive at 9:30 a.m. to begin cooking, unpacking boxes of donated food and setting up the marketplace. At 10:30 a.m., volunteers gather for a quick meeting, where a candle is lit, announcements are read, and prayers are offered. Promptly at 11 a.m., the doors are opened and clients, about 150 each week, are led into the nave for a short welcome message; a food ticket is given to them and identifying paperwork is required for every visitor. There is a strong emphasis on fellowship, with the offer of singing, poetry recitation, or piano playing extended to clients. Once the paperwork is completed and announcements made, the clients are ushered through the hot food line and given a healthy, well-balanced meal; for some, this is the only hot meal they’ll eat all week. After every client has eaten, they make their way through the panty area, selecting juices, canned goods, prepared foods, fresh bread, desserts, and fresh produce. Clients are also welcome to pick fresh produce from Malachi’s garden, The Garden of Eatin’, as well as obtain new clothing from the Clothes Closet. Oftentimes, childcare is available.
“It’s all about fellowship,” said Wendy Lauber, Director of Communications. “It’s not an ‘us and them’ mentality. We’re all in this together.” This spirit of dignity, kindnessand understanding resonates throughout the community that Malachi’s has established. From the morning prayer, when volunteers voice their intent to be humble, to smile and to help others in a passionate way each board member talks about Malachi’s mission. Acceptance is the emotion of the day.
Volunteer Lanette O. agrees. “Everyone is struggling, in one way or another. But people are people, no matter the circumstances.” Lanette began as a client but found so much encouragement and positivity that she came back, week after week.
“I struggled a bit, because of my disability, but once I settled at the intake table it’s like I was born here. I forget my disability, because I’m just here to make my clients smile, to make their day better. They’re my brothers and sisters. It’s a blessing.”
Reverend P. Richard Game agrees. “Malachi’s is about the food, sure, but there’s more than that. It’s about relationships and dignity through shared experience.” Rev. Game, the rector at St. Patrick’s, hopes to replicate Malachi’s model in other communities, coordinating with other Episcopal churches in different neighborhoods.
The Atlanta Community Food Bank donates 60 percent of available food; they deliver straight to Malachi’s every Tuesday. The other 40 percent comes from local grocery stores. Malachi’s partners with two local organizations, Second Helpings Atlanta and Helping Feed Atlanta, both of which forge partnerships with grocery stores, caterers, restaurants, and farmers markets to bring leftover food to those who need it. The Dunwoody Community Garden donates fresh seasonal produce on a weekly basis, as well. Kroger has donated numerous shopping carts for clients to use.
The growth of Malachi’s Storehouse has been very much organic. In the early 90s, St. Patrick’s parish began a small outreach program. A committee was formed, and canned goods were brought from parishioners homes every Sunday.
Around 15 years later, Malachi’s Storehouse became officially partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and in 2010, co-director Kathy Malcolm Hall helped form a partnership with Second Helping and the Dunwoody Community Garden.
Volunteer Bob Lundsten helped the organization build and cultivate its own garden on the grounds of St. Patrick’s. Around 20 percent of volunteers are parishioners of St. Patrick’s; many volunteers were originally clients who felt the need to return as volunteers after their needs were met. Some volunteers are friends of clients or friends of other volunteers who were brought as guests and never left. Malachi’s rarely does online marketing, so their growth is all word-of-mouth.
Recently, Malachi’s Storehouse received a large grant from the Atlanta Community Food Bank which allowed it to purchase a large, walk-in refrigerator. This upgrade will allow Malachi’s to store more food, thereby increasing the number of clients served. This plays perfectly to their future plan, which is to have the capacity to serve more people and, eventually, eradicate hunger in Atlanta. In 2014 alone, Malachi’s distributed more than 500,000 pounds of food to more than 30,000 individuals and families in need.
“It’s a distribution issue, not a food issue,” said Kathy Malcolm Hall, Co-Director. “It’s completely doable to end food scarcity in Atlanta.”
Malachi’s Storehouse participates in and holds numerous events throughout the year, including the Hunger Walk, the Christmas Toy Party and the back to school backpack drive, when Malachi’s partners with For the Kid in All of Us to distribute backpacks filled with school supplies to local area school children. The latter is occurring right now; those interested are urged to visit www.forthekid.org to find out how to donate. Donations are due July 31, 2015 at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.
If you are interested in helping Malachi’s Storehouse, there are a few ways to do so. First of all, donations are always welcomed, whether non-perishable food, clothing, or household items. Diapers are always needed, as well as personal toiletries. Volunteers are always welcomed, as are monetary donations.
Malachi’s Storehouse operates every Wednesday; to learn more, visit the website at malachisstorehouse.org.