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Pocket Change to Powerful Philanthropy

Can a dollar have an impact in this day and age? The answer: A resounding yes from the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia.

Can a dollar have an impact in this day and age?

The answer: A resounding yes from the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia.

“A single dollar at the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia actually translates to three balanced meals,” said Erin Barger, CEO of the Food Bank. “We’re able to do that based on our purchasing power, the connections we leverage, and how we're able to source food. There is literally no gift too small to have an impact here.”

So when it came to choosing a philanthropic partner to help manage their funds, the natural choice was a nonprofit that also believed in the power of a dollar, the power of connections and partnership, and the power of wise stewardship.

“With all the negative things that came from the pandemic, one positive for us as a food bank was increased awareness. Which meant we were able to leverage greater philanthropy than in years before,” said Erin. “At the Food Bank, stewardship is one of our core values, and so it's really important to our board of directors and the leadership here that we take that stewardship seriously, and the Athens Area Community Foundation is fully aligned with us in that. It was an easy decision for us to open a fund at AACF. Also, we are fully aligned with AACF in believing that relationship is a cornerstone to everything we do, with the neighbors we are here to serve at the center.”

Founded 31 years ago, the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia serves 14 counties and is expanding their physical building by building a new 63,000-square-foot facility, almost double the current size.

According to Erin, who became CEO in 2021, the food bank’s mission is to connect neighbors with nourishing food.

“We do this work because we believe in a day where one day we wake up, and every person has enough food every day of their life,” said Erin. “For me, personally, my upbringing instilled in me a desire to give back. My father worked for the Ford Motor Company and was very much for the working man. He believed that everyone should have equal opportunity, and that was something that he was willing to speak up for. My family was also open-minded about what loving your neighbor means. I learned that loving your neighbor means really having to discern and come to terms with what is enough. And if I have more than enough, it's time to share.

“And so, for me, that connects to the Athens Area Community Foundation - they are also a vehicle for people's kindness and their love for their neighbor, which is something I find intuitive and essential to our community. Giving has not only a ripple effect, but I also think it has an exponential impact that philanthropists often underestimate”.

The Food Bank’s partnership with AACF is not just strictly financial; it’s also multilevel.

“AACF has really spearheaded elevating the role that nonprofit organizations play in our region,” Erin said. “Sarah McKinney, AACF’s CEO, is an incredible spokesperson for the fact that “nonprofit” is truly a tax code, not a way of doing business.. She has really helped tell the story and showcase other nonprofits that are making innovative and strategic steps forward to build the community that we all want to call home. This shared belief in capacity for non-profit excellence has been fundamental to our relationship. Additionally, we were honored to receive AACF’s Nonprofit of the Year award this year.

“It was incredibly humbling to receive that in the company of many other very worthy and deserving organizations, and to celebrate this in my second year is a testament to the legacy of those who came before me in this work. AACF is at a level where the connection to them and the relationship with them is kind of iron sharpening iron. Their rigor and stewardship are indicators to us that our faith in them is well placed.

“If something matters and I need help with something, I’m going to go to the experts. And if you’re a nonprofit and you have resources and want to see them grow but also connect to the broader community, what better way to do that than to connect to the group who's convening and leading these conversations?”

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The Athens Area Community Foundation is a public grantmaking foundation that builds community by encouraging long term giving through funds created by caring donors.

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