Sweetwater Mission extends its outreach to help more families through the pandemic
For more than 50 years, Austell-based Sweetwater Mission has worked to stabilize families by preventing hunger and homelessness while transforming lives through education and employment opportunities. Since 1968, the organization has been committed to battle the effects of poverty head on, to stabilize families and help move them into a more abundant life. Through its food pantry, clothing donation program, and partnerships with the United Way Kids Home Initiative and other charities, Sweetwater Mission has strived to keep families fed and to assist with other needs so that these less fortunate people can stay in their homes.
“Sweetwater Mission has maintained an excellent relationship with Cobb/Douglas/Paulding residents, as well as businesses, churches, and Cobb County organizations,” says Executive Director Pat Soden. “Through their continued generosity and support over the years, we have been blessed to be able to grow the number of families we help every year.”
Sweetwater Mission is comprised of a talented team that is more like family, says Development Director, Debbie Ginocchio, who is responsible for fund-raising and community outreach. Well-known Cobb County leader Dr. Frank Croker has been an active donor and supporter for 18 years and describes himself as “extremely honored and blessed being involved with Sweetwater Mission.” Dr. Croker happily voices his endorsement of the organization’s efforts “in helping those with needs in the community.”
Another strong advocate of Sweetwater Mission is First Christian Church of Mableton, a financial supporter of the organization for more than 30 years. “We love how they meet the needs of those who require assistance in our South Cobb Community,” said Executive Minister Barry Smith.
Of course, the pandemic placed incredible stress on all non-profits in Georgia; Sweetwater Mission certainly experienced its share. During the past 12 months under Soden’s leadership, the organization has refocused and aggressively increased its outreach to the families-in-need in Cobb, Douglas, and Paulding Counties with re-engineered existing programs and by developing new ways to serve. As a result, during 2020 Sweetwater was able to significantly expand programs of community support to help a record number of families.
“The pandemic required us to ‘think outside the box,’ and working with our charitable partners, expanded our food supply, at no cost to Sweetwater, enabling us to create Meals On A Mission, which allows us to partner with Cobb Community Fleet run by Howard Koepke and Shari Martin,” Soden said. “We then partnered with Pastor Smith at First Christian, and Cobb Schools, to feed an additional 400 families per week and 1,000 children’s meals.”
Sweetwater Mission has responded to pandemic guidelines in several key areas:
- “Express Line,” a drive-thru operation was created by converting the former food pantry. This allows families to remain in their cars while receiving much-needed food, creating a safe zone for everyone.
- “Meals on a Mission,” a community outreach program that delivers food to families. Approximately 440 families per week are currently being served, and through a partnership with Cobb County Schools, the program also distributes more than 1,000 kids’ meals each week.
- Cobb ERA (Emergency Rental Assistance Program). Sweetwater Mission is one of five designated non-profit organizations in Cobb County to process applications for this federally-funded emergency rental assistance program.
- Education Center. This facility will become operational later this year to provide low-income residents of Cobb, Douglas, and Paulding Counties innovative ways to stabilize families by providing educational and employment opportunities. The facility will include a fully-equipped teaching kitchen capable of seating 40 people, a hospital room with educators from Wellstar teaching people to become Certified Nurse Assistants, classrooms for teaching financial literacy, nutrition, childhood testing, and a variety of other community uses.
“We were overjoyed when we partnered in serving together during the pandemic of 2020 to provide food and spiritual assistance to several hundred families on a weekly basis, and we look forward to continuing working with Pat Soden and her dedicated team,” Smith says.
To learn more about the organization and the way in which you can provide support, visit sweetwatermission.org.
2019/2020 Financial Results
- SWM Equity position increased in 2020 by $431,248 (+ 38%)
- SWM’s cash position improved in 2020 by $145,084 (+105%)
- 2019 net loss ($150,825) to 2020 net gain of $172,426 (+214%)
- Adopted for the first time in the org’s history a coordinated accounting for administering In-Kind-Donations, which totaled $1,163,655 for 2020
2019/2020 Operating Results
- Households served increased from 23,114 to 26,404 (+ 15%)
- Family members served increased from 93,987 to 128,407 (+ 37%)
- Total pounds of food distributed increased from 966,735 to 2,349,272 (+ 243%)