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Monday, August 30, 2010

Home-Cooked Meals and More for Atlanta's Homeless and Needy at 'Day of Dignity'

A bright sun with blue skies and soft clouds was the backdrop throughout last Sunday as we visited sites in Atlanta, Georgia where Day of Dignity events took place. People gathered from all over Metro Atlanta looking to be of service on this day, dubbed the 'Day of Dignity' by Islamic Relief USA. Islamic Relief USA and Share Atlanta, supported by four local organizations, and a host of volunteers offered assistance to all who attended. This Day of Dignity would be unique in that events would take place at three different sites in Atlanta and one additional site in Clarkston.

The first location that we visited was teeming with activity by the time we arrived. People had already lined up and were receiving medical screenings and hot meals. Screenings were being done by a group of young medical professionals who chatted amicably with individuals who waited patiently for their turn at medical attention.

Volunteers directed peoples’ attention to another line where hot home-cooked meals were being dispensed. Many people took their food and, moving just out of the way of foot-traffic, sat on the sidewalk and took their time eating what they had received.

As all of this took place, haircuts were being given to those who wanted to spruce up their appearance. People kept coming to the area where the event was being staged, on Broad Street, just minutes away from the Georgia Dome. This was a rare opportunity for people to receive meals, free haircuts, personal items and medical attention, at no cost to them, all in the same place.

Not far away, a site had been established where a completely different population of people was receiving similar care and treatment. Recipients showed their appreciation with a nod of the head, a smile, and a thank you or just by the way they savored the meals which they had received. The third site had completed their work by the time we arrived, but many people who had benefited from the distribution still lingered. They were consuming their food, looking through the items they had received, all the while attempting to find shade from a sun whose heat was growing in intensity.

We arrived at the last location, Clarkston, before the event was scheduled to start. From an initial gathering of 4, at least 75 volunteers, quickly assembled and equally as fast, transformed a small area of a large apartment complex into the staging area for what was to be the day’s last Day of Dignity event. In apt anticipation of what was to take place, children, parents and those without children, but obviously in need, formed a cheerful, talkative, yet orderly line ready to receive whatever was being provided. Bags were filled with school supplies, hygiene kits, towels and other items which had been generously donated. Warm meals were provided and medical screenings where available to those who wanted to take advantage of their offering.
Day of Dignity activities are intended to provide struggling Americans with basic services like medical screenings, in addition to hot meals and aid parcels filled with blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, and other necessities. The program is designed to encourage service to others.

Islamic Relief USA is especially grateful to the all of the organizations who support Day of Dignity activities across the country and to the host of volunteers who constitute the workforce who carry out the actual activities from city to city. We know that for many, this event is a part of greater service that those volunteers do throughout the year. Please consider replicating this event in your locality.

--Saleem Khalid, Islamic Relief USA Domestic Programs Manager
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