What’s so Special About La Table?

Everyone knows that IHNA has a vitally important mission and provides life saving services for families in extreme crisis in the Athens community. Have you ever wondered, however, what makes us different from other community agencies working with people facing extreme poverty and homelessness?

A very good way to learn more about IHNA’s unique role and amazing success is to attend La Table on February 28, 2017, at the Athens Country Club. La Table is our annual signature fundraiser and luncheon gala and it is truly a sight to see! On La Table day in February, the grand ball room of the country club becomes a rather magical place filled with 32 gloriously decorated tables, each one being the masterpiece of a very talented and creative host or hostess. It is such fun to browse through this beautiful scene and just experience all the splendid tablescapes. It is a truly a feast for the eyes, but that’s not what’s really special about La Table.

La Table has proven to be a very successful fundraising event for IHNA for many years. We enlist table hosts and hostesses from all of the congregations in our network. These talented and dedicated volunteers then invite eight or ten friends to each donate $ 50.00 to sit at the lovely tables they create. We usually net around $12,000. All of our proceeds go directly to IHNA to be used to provide services for our guest families. This is a very important fundraiser, but that’s not what’s really special about La Table.

So, what is so special about La Table? As the event chair for quite a few years, it has been my job and my honor to offer a few closing remarks at the end of the luncheon. As I stand at the podium and look across the huge room filled with nearly three hundred beautiful, smiling people, I am always a bit overwhelmed with this crowd. Each year I realize that these lovely guests are also the committed volunteers from our thirteen host congregations and sixteen support

congregations. These are the kind people who care for our IHNA guest families week after week. I am looking at the early morning van drivers, the evening meal providers, the evening hosts, the homework helpers and the overnight hosts. I am looking at three hundred people who touch the lives of our IHNA families during their worst moments of hopelessness and despair. I am looking at the people who actually make a difference to struggling families trying to survive. I am looking at the volunteers whose kindnesses let our IHNA families know that they are important, that they are cared for and that they are loved. Seeing these devoted, compassionate people together in one room is a large part of what makes La Table so special.

Here’s the other part. As I look out at these three hundred beautiful volunteers, I am looking at people from many, many different faiths. I am looking at Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists. I am looking at Lutherans and Episcopalians. I am looking at Unitarians and Quakers. I am looking at Catholics and Protestants. I am looking at Jews and Muslims. And I am just overwhelmed! I am overwhelmed with pride in our diversity. I always wish the whole world could see the example of interfaith work we do here in Athens, Georgia! I truly believe that our diversity is our greatest strength. We may have different beliefs, we may have different styles of worship but we are more alike than we are not alike. We are united in believing one profound and powerful truth. We know that the best way to serve our God is to serve one another. We know that we have a responsibility to help those among us who are enduring hardship and suffering. This is how we live our faith. This is also how we all work together to make IHNA so successful in our community.

Coming together to celebrate with our huge network of wonderfully diverse IHNA volunteers—that’s what’s really special about La Table!

  • By Wanda Culpepper

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, we are grateful for each of you. For the love, for the support, for the compassion, and for the vision that you provide Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens.

This past Sunday night, IHNA was honored to take part in an Interfaith Thanksgiving Worship Service hosted at First Baptist Church. I would like to share my remarks at the event because I think they capture what each of you do on a daily basis to make a difference.

From L to R Joel Tolbert (Oconee Presbyterian), Eric Linder (Congregation Children of Israel), Alison Eskildsen (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship), Bruce Lancaster (First Presbyterian Church), Paul Baxley (First Baptist Church), Adel Amer (Al Huda Islamic Center), Davin Welter (IHNA)

“On behalf of Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens (IHNA), I want to thank you for the gifts that you offer to assist homeless children and their families in Athens.

I am grateful for being a part of this group. I am grateful for your presence today at this service. I am grateful for this community that cherishes love and unity.
In a time when the divisions in our country are so great – the divide between rich and poor, the chasm between political parties, the gulf between races and religions – we gather to show harmony. We gather to demonstrate friendship.
A week and a half ago, we had an election that was the culmination of a divisive process. Regardless of what side of the coin you were on, I would encourage you to not think of elections as every 4 years or every 2 years. Instead, think about what you elect to do today. As a member of this community, you have more power and resources than you probably recognize. I would encourage you to utilize those benefits and focus your energies on tangible actions that make a difference.

IHNA is one of those places in our community where a difference can be made. Simply spending the evening or the night with our guests, keeps them for being out in the cold. Providing a meal for our families, keeps them for being hungry. Volunteering in our office, keeps our expenses low and helps our organization run smoothly.

I am thankful for the congregations and the individuals in them that elect to join with IHNA – regardless of their differences – to provide shelter, food, transportation, and childcare for homeless children and their families. IHNA works with over 800 generous volunteers who provide care and compassion for our families housed in the host congregations.

Thanks to each of them and thanks to you for electing to make a difference.”

With much appreciation and Happy Thanksgiving,

Davin Welter

Community Service Around the Country

Here’s a great example of efforts being made to combat homelessness in other parts of the country.


“Los Angeles has a new strategy for policing the homeless: one guided by compassion. It’s rolling out a new team of officers dedicated to “helping” rather than “dealing with” homeless people. They’re acting more like social workers than cops.” – Anna Scott of http://www.npr.org

Click the link above to read the full story!

Our New Blog

HI Everyone!  Thanks to our Waddell Fellow through the Presbyterian Church, Dray Criswell, we now have a blog space on our website. We hope that you will check in periodically to read our blog posts, and if you would like to contribute an article, please let me (Stacy Pardue) know.

Our office has been busy this summer! Our staff now consists of Davin Welter, Director; Stacy Pardue, Assistant Director; Regina Goldman; Service Director, Elizabeth Morris, Office Assistant; Sarah Beth Tankersley, Master of Social Work Intern; Hannah Mapes, Bachelor of Social Work Intern; Dray Criswell, Waddell Fellow Intern.

We are working hard to improve all aspects of IHNA and its organizational processes. We want to keep a full house of families (3 families or 14 people is our weekly capacity), increase our number of host congregations,  improve communication with our volunteers and the Athens community, strengthen the collaboration with other homeless agencies in Athens, keep our finances strong, and be sure that we are thanking our many volunteers for their good work! We also are excited about increasing our interfaith work, and are helping form an Athens Area Interfaith Council that will focus on interfaith dialogue and service.  And, we are delighted that this week we welcomed the Al Huda Islamic Association as a new support congregation.

We hope you enjoy our new blog! Send us any feedback and keep engaged on our website. Thanks for making a difference to struggling families in Athens!  Athens is my new home; my husband Sam and I are delighted to be part of such a wonderful community!

About IHN of Athens

The Mission of IHN Athens is to mobilize our community to help homeless families in crisis situations achieve sustainable independence. It is the goal of IHN Athens to give homeless families the opportunity to stay together as a family and the time and resources to get back on their feet.

IHN Athens is a coalition of Athens Area Churches and Congregations of Faith, referred to as Host Congregations or Support Congregations, that may provide shelter, meals, and support for homeless families in crisis for up to 90 days.  Host Congregations, on a rotating basis, provide 3 meals a day to Network Families.  Each network family is provided with their own room within the Host facility.

The Hancock House Day Center is located at 393-1 West Hancock Avenue, and is staffed by the Executive Director, the Service Director, and the IHN Athens Office Volunteers and Office Van Drivers, who are trained on IHN Athens processes and policies.  From 8AM to 5PM Monday through Friday, unless they are working or in school, guests are at the Day Center, where they are assisted with employment direction, medical needs, financial management, childcare assistance, and transportation options. The guests also have access to laundry facilities, showers, telephones, and computers, and are able to send and receive mail.

What does IHN of Athens do?

The network of churches provides shelter, meals, and compassionate assistance for up to three families (or maximum of 14 people) in crisis situations. As a group, the families rotate from church to church on a weekly basis. By uniting congregations through our Day Center, and through the support of social service agencies, our program assists these families with finding sustainable housing, job training, employment, and with meeting other various needs.

For Guests

  • Families can stay together in a safe environment
  • Professional staff and caring volunteers provide daily support
  • A majority of families go on to secure permanent housing

For the Community

  • Mobilizes cost-effective community resources
  • Assists homeless families for about 1/3 the cost of public shelters
  • Does not institutionalize shelter as a solution to homelessness

For Volunteers

  • Provides an opportunity to make a difference in their own community
  • Provides an opportunity for families to volunteer together
  • Volunteer jobs fit varying schedules and talents

For Churches

  • Informs, energizes and motivates congregations
  • Offers meaningful family-centered outreach
  • Offers interfaith partnership