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Clothing fire victims with RER, RCFR, volunteer help

Rockdale Emergency Relief recently partnered with an Edwards Middle School mentoring group, Citizens for Georgia Power and Rockdale Fire and Rescue in two service projects on Jan. 20 to help families affected by fire and others in need.

Both projects were conducted at RER offices with nearly 30 volunteers participating.

Lee Cronan of Citizens for Georgia Power recruited volunteers for the project. Most of their volunteers were either Georgia Power retirees or relatives. Cronan noted that the projects were a great way "to celebrate the MLK Jr. holiday as a day on, not a day off."

Additional volunteers came from the E.M.S. Mentoring group, which is a group of 12 young men from Edwards Middle School. David Yancey and Julian James, both of whom are teachers at Edwards, facilitate the group. The mission of E.M.S., which stands for "Every Man Succeeds," is to train young men to be leaders in the community through weekly classes, field trips and youth seminars.

The first project involved labeling boxes for ongoing community food drive efforts that were launched with this year's Walk By Faith event on Saturday, Jan. 4. Volunteers applied labels to food collection boxes that will be distributed to congregations or businesses that would like to keep the RER Community Food Bank stocked year-round with basic food staples like peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, pasta, chili, or canned fruits and vegetables.

The second project involved sorting donated clothing for a new partnership with RCFR. Volunteers sorted through clothing to identify new or gently used items that fire fighters could distribute in "real time" to victims, many of whom have no access to anything clean or fresh to wear in the immediate aftermath of a fire, given the damage caused by fire, water and/or smoke.

According to RER Executive Director Andy Peabody, there are fire department personnel who would like to provide clothing immediately to individuals and families affected by fires, yet no clothing closet in the community is open 24 hours, seven days a week.

"An old friend, Mike Yoder, came and told me about conversations he'd had with RCFR Chief Morgan, and about the responders' wishing that they could immediately address the clothing needs of those they encounter when fires occur," Peabody said. "This is about helping neighbors help other neighbors in need, and working together as a community."

Peabody knew Yoder, who is the Disaster Relief Committee chair for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, an active Conyers FUMC member, and serves on the boards of Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale and Family Promise of NewRock, from working together in past disaster response and long-term recovery projects.

"Rockdale County Fire-Rescue is pleased to work with RER to help those whose lives and homes have been affected by devastating fires," RCFR Chief Dan Morgan said. The new partnership will allow RCFR to maintain a small stock of assorted clothing items of various sizes and kinds at one of the RCFR station houses, available to RCFR personnel on a 24/7 basis.

Items will be for emergency distribution to fire victims only and will only be accessible by RCFR personnel. They will not be for distribution to the general public. Members of the general public in need of clothing assistance are encouraged to contact Rockdale Emergency Relief to obtain a voucher to visit the RER Clothing Closet location on Green Street in Conyers during regular operating hours on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

"This collaboration between RER and Rockdale County Fire-Rescue is a great partnership, providing a valuable service in a time of need for those who have faced adversity in our community" County Chairman & CEO Richard Oden said.