Organizations: fill MINISTRIES
During the economic downturn, Suellen Daniels realized that many children around her were going hungry. So she opened up her kitchen to feed them.
“We also became aware of the causes of food insecurity,” she says, “so we started teaching life and job skills.”
The Cumming-based nonprofit has since outgrown three locations. Now called fill MINISTRIES – “as in filling the gap,” she says – it has fed 75,000 people, including 33,485 last year, by distributing 141,000 pounds of food.
Fill MINISTRIES has three staffers, including Daniels as executive director, and an army of 7,600 volunteers. It is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to purchase 10 acres for a campus dedicated to social welfare. The proposed site is currently a working organic farm with 22 greenhouses, some of which would be converted into aquaponic farms to grow fish.
“The goal is for the farm to produce 114,204 pounds of high-end produce and 40,000 pounds of fish rich in omega-3 proteins,” she says. “This will not only provide fresh food to families, but we can sell the remaining product to cover our operating expenses.”
Annual expenses are estimated at $92,000, while the net income is projected at $809,455. “This means we’ll be both sustainable and self-sustaining.”
The nonprofit not only provides food for people who don’t always know where their next meal will come from via its Meals by Grace program, it also encourages those it feeds to become self-sufficient. Resource Lab helps teach life skills including money and nutrition, while The Job Sight is a work training program that teaches things like hands-on organic farming, auto repair and food service to empower people to contribute to and work within their community.
“What we envision is a campus environment where people are served with dignity,” Daniels says. “Ideally, you won’t be able to tell who is serving and who is being served. We have a lot of clients who come to get food one day and then show up the next to work.”
Fill MINISTRIES recently expanded its services into Dawson County, with plans to set up shop soon in Hall County. “Ideally,” Daniels says, “we’d like to save the world with our model that is translatable anywhere.”