As the intensity of COVID-19 increases, Athens nonprofit Sparrow’s Nest has raised over $25,000 to provide emergency food bags, hygiene kits and canned goods to those in need.
“Whenever you can put a need out there and try to rally the troops and get this kind of response from your community, it’s always good,” James Scott, Sparrow’s Nest executive director said.
Founded in the early 1990s, Sparrow’s Nest is an independent ministry center that provides meals, showers, laundry facilities and donated clothing to those in need. The nonprofit also offers and “breaking the cycle” classes that focus on overcoming addictions and developing positive goals.
Sparrow’s Nest faces unusual challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Scott said. Normally, Sparrow’s Nest serves as a daytime shelter at their facility on Prince Avenue, allowing those without homes to build relationships and community with other people as they spend time in the facility. The organization has been unable to serve in its sheltering capacity due to social distancing guidelines.
To comply with social distancing recommendations and ensure the safety of the community members it serves, Sparrow’s Nest changed its approach to community outreach: starting a fundraiser to prepare emergency goods to the public. Red Dress Boutique in downtown Athens has pledged to match every donation up to $5,000.
The organization's goal is to fundraiser $35,000 for relief efforts by May 29. As of press time, the nonprofit has raised over $25,000.
At a time when Georgia’s shelter-in-place mandate poses a difficult situation for the homeless population to properly self-isolate from the virus, it’s important to maintain consistent efforts to provide help for them, said Sparrow’s Nest director’s assistant Brian Joseph.
“I think what we’re seeing now is another layer of issues. We’re seeing mental health declining overall for our clients,” Joseph said.
Joseph noted a fraction of their clients fall within the at-risk category for COVID-19. With many of them living without health insurance, clients are fearful of what will happen if they contract the virus.
Joseph stated the amount of people they are serving is only increasing as even people who have shelter are in need of relief due to job layoffs. According to NPR, 16.8 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment within the past three weeks.
“I think the need is even more so now than it was before,” Joseph said.
Sparrow’s Nest serves an average of 75 to 125 people per day, but expects for that number to grow even higher as the COVID-19 outbreak and its effects continue to escalate, according to the fundraising page.
The organization provides relief packages at their location on Prince Avenue on Wednesdays through Sundays at 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Joseph’s long term hope is to maintain connections with the people the nonprofit serves and provide them with deeper life transformations once things are back to normal.
“I know a lot of things are closing and changing right now, but we want to be that one consistent thing that they can come to,” Joseph said.