Dear friends,

Today is a milestone day for one of the ministries we have supported during the pandemic. The PopUp Food Pantry at Samad’s Grill in Sandy Springs distributed food to its last customers today. In recent weeks, as more people have gone back to work, the need for the pantry has steadily declined. Those who still need food will be able to get it from other sources in Sandy Springs.

To me this PopUp Pantry, and its sister “Solidarity Pantry,” also in Sandy Springs, are proof of the Holy Spirit at work during the pandemic. When Jennifer Lott realized in mid-March 2020 that the closing of schools meant that some of her children’s friends would not have enough to eat she texted her friend Lesley Samad and asked if it was okay if she handed out some free groceries at her restaurant. Lesley and her husband Jamal quickly agreed. Jennifer bought some groceries, which were quickly distributed. Other friends heard what she was doing and brought more food. Suddenly, a food pantry was born. 

Jennifer and Lesley did not begin with the intention of starting a food pantry. They just saw an immediate need and took steps to help, and others inspired by them joined in. I’m sure the Samads didn’t plan for their small restaurant to host a food pantry. for 14 months, but they did so with a gracious hospitality. 

The pantry because a true community effort. Individuals in the area volunteered and brought food, teachers and the principal from Sandy Springs Middle School delivered food to those who had no way to come get it. Congregation B’nai Torah paid for a delivery of food from the Atlanta Food Bank each week, drivers from Black Tie moving loaded, delivered, and unloaded 11,000 pounds of food each week with no charge. Elise MacIntyre delivered mountains of food from St. Dunstan’s each week, and we made substantial financial donations as well.

The numbers tell the story: 

  • 356,000 pounds of food
  • 191 days open
  • 957 volunteer shifts
  • $45,000 in cash donations
  • 22,680 families served 

Really the goal of any helping organization is to work itself out of business because the need no longer exists. That’s what this little pantry has done. Well done faithful servants!

The Solidarity Pantry, serving the northern Sandy Springs community, continues. They are about to be ousted from the space they are now in, and are preparing a new space on Roswell Road near Hammond Drive. We once again have a mountain of food in the narthex, and that will go to them. We also have a substantial amount of money in our food pantry fund, which you have donated. All of it will go to food pantries, Solidarity and Emmaus House.

I am so proud of what you have done and the difference it has made in people’s lives. Jennifer Lott frequently says of the pantry, “This is what community looks like.” It is also what the work of the Spirit looks like — moving through communities of Christians, Jews, and Muslims working together to care for God’s people.

Remember to wear red on Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The service bulletin is attached. The link to sign up is below. Please add whether you prefer open or reserved seating. Please sign up noon Saturday.  We will start that practice this Sunday.

This plaque commemorating the pantry and those who supported it, including St. Dunstan’s, will hang at Samad’s.


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