Nestled away in Tucker’s downtown, amid a row of churches and small businesses, is an operation that is changing and – in some cases – saving lives across our area. NETWorks Cooperative Ministry sits in a non-descript building on Fourth Street, sharing space with offices for Habitat for Humanity. The few staffers and volunteers they have work tirelessly to achieve a mission that most people take for granted: they want to feed families.
“There’s a perception in the community that it’s people who just want to lay about the house and get free food somewhere and that’s not the case,” says NETWorks’ Executive Director David Fisher. “You never know who’s going to come through the door.”
Fisher, who came to NETWorks a year ago after a long career in the for-profit realm, talks of people who are working hard, but not getting enough hours at their job or adequate wages to cover rent, utilities and food. He talks of people who may need a little help writing a resumé or covering an electric bill. He talks of people who want nothing more than to escape the circumstances that led them to poverty.
Fisher says in NETWorks’ 39-square-mile coverage area, which covers Northlake, Embry Hills and Tucker, there are nearly 18,000 people who are food insecure.
“Forty percent of them are working and 32 percent of them are children,” Fisher estimates. “So nearly three-quarters of the people looking for assistance are working families.”
NETWorks, through cooperation with several local churches, stocks an emergency food pantry, as well as a grocery co-op, to help these families put food on their tables. They see an uptick in need each year during the holidays, as kids who would normally receive meals at school are off on break.
Understanding that the holidays are also supposed to be fun, NETWorks sponsors the Good Neighbor Christmas Gift Shop, where families can purchase donated toys at discounted prices. The shop, located at 2367 Main Street, is open from December 8-10.
Fisher and his team do all this keeping in mind the original mission of serving the community.
“NETWorks was formed by a variety of churches in our service area to respond to Jesus’ command to love our neighbor,” he recalls. “We work with them to escape poverty long-term.”
While Fisher acknowledges there will always be someone in need of help, his team takes pride in seeing families break the cycle of poverty. Their success stories are easy to spot: people who no longer come to NETWorks needing food, but instead come back to donate and help others. And it’s those success stories that are lifting up our community one small victory at a time.