From Rummage to Mission
Deloris Wallis, a member of Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church, saw a need to provide food to hungry members of the community in the early 1950s. Starting in their home with food donated by members of the church and its surrounding neighbors, Deloris and her husband, Julius, purchased and delivered food to people in need. Each bag was filled with flour, sugar, meat and other basics and cost about $10. According to Julius, Deloris made the food pantry a mission of the church.
By 1971 the Wallis’ no longer had room in their home to support the pantry’s growth so it was moved to the church.
At the same time as the Wallis’ were seeing to the needs of the community by providing food, the women of St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church held a rummage sale in 1952. Its success led to the opening of the Budget Helper Shop on Peachtree Road in Brookhaven. With support from St. Martin's Church, the volunteers created a memorable shop and a charming workplace serving those in need of clothing. For many years, the Budget Helper Shop stood at Caldwell Road and Dresden Drive in a self-standing building owned by St. Martin’s.
However, the demographics of the area began changing and the volunteers found that most of the clientele being served with clothing from the Helper Shop could no longer afford to live in the upwardly mobile Brookhaven area. These clients moved northward to Chamblee and Doraville and their needs were more than just clothing. The volunteers realized there was a larger need that couldn’t be ignored.
The Suthers Center for Christian Outreach, a outstanding success and influence in the community, developed from the ambitious nature and remarkable determination of several influential Brookhaven individuals and their churches.
A new beginning
Father Suthers, left, is now retired and currently lives in Arizona. Called the Painting Padre, he studied at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute School of Art in Utica, New York.
In 2010, Fr. John McCard, the rector of St. Martin in the Fields Church, saw the need for forming a new partnership with Oglethorpe Presbyterian, Brookhaven Christian, and Brookhaven First United Methodist Church to bring under one roof the ministries of the Budget Helper Shop, the Food Pantry, and the Emergency Assistance program.
Working with his Senior Warden, Bruce Hall, Fr. John and Bruce were able to obtain a new space off of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard with favorable lease terms from the late Robert Mimms. This led to the creation of a new center for Christian ministry that was able to provide food, clothing, and financial assistance for those in need.
In conversations with other church leaders, Fr. John decided that it would be appropriate to name the center after Fr. Derwent Suthers, a retired priest of St. Martin’s, who was known for his love and compassion for those in need.
A great partnership
The Suthers Center for Christian Outreach is also fortunate to have volunteers who bring to it corporate expertise, or even experience as a national network anchor.
The partnered leadership of close friends Bruce Hall and Sandy Rose for The Suthers Center is a story of fulfilling a plan for exceptional outreach to those in need, and the devotion to so many people who were helped by them.
Sandy Rose, Karen Rose and Bruce Hall
Bruce Hall, Chair of The Board (2011-2017), successor to Walter Cronkite and remembered at NASA as one of the nations "chroniclers of the space program,” made a conscientious decision upon retirement, to make Suthers his mission to improve the lives of others. Sandy Rose, recognized in Atlanta as an exceptionally gifted accountant and partner with Price Waterhouse for years, past Chair of the Atlanta Ballet Board and known for his civic leadership, served as Executive Director as well as taking on the responsibility of ordering the food for the pantry.
The close relationship of Hall and Rose led to The Suthers Center being recognized as a unique outreach providing services to needy people in Chamblee. More than the remarkable leadership contribution, Hall and Rose both provided personal care and attention to numbers of individuals and families suffering from homelessness. Bruce Hall passed away in May of 2017, and Sandy Rose, in retirement, was recognized in November of 2019 as Executive Director Emeritus. Both men were selfless in their service and demonstrated the Suthers’ mission – to give what we have and to do all we are able to do.
For many years Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church continued to sponsor the food pantry started by Deloris Wallis. Having moved to the Oglethorpe Presbyterian church in 1971, the pantry demanded more and more space at the church, and in 2008 the Food Pantry moved into the Suthers Center. Today, the Pantry provides over 200,000 pounds of food each year to more than 4,000 clients! Food is ordered from the Atlanta Community Food Bank once a week and picked up by a team of volunteers. The Pantry passes a rigorous inspection each spring. The 11 monitored freezers and refrigerators are filled with meats and fresh produce, and the shelves are stocked with canned goods and packaged foods. The Food Pantry volunteers meet each client with bags of food and a kind word.
Today, the Food Pantry is once again undergoing a change. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suthers Center was closed on March 13, 2020 and all services except for the Food Pantry, closed temporarily by The Board and Vestry in June due to rising costs and no sales from the thrift shop.
On September 26, the Food Pantry was the first of our services to reopen in its new location at St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church. The re-opening of the Food Pantry as a drive-through service has been carefully planned to get keep both clients and volunteers safe as the Center continues to provide this valuable service to the community.
The Food Pantry
The Thrift Shop has also seen a lot of growth and change and the proceeds provide major funding for the Food Pantry and other services.
Unfortunately, again due to COVID-19, the Thrift Shop was closed in March. However, the existing inventory was given to other organizations that were able to remain open during the pandemic:
Gateway, the center for homeless men, received men’s clothing and shoes
Have A Heart Thrift Store (Vienna Methodist Church) received heavier pants and shirts for field workers, furniture, shelves for their store, and kitchen ware
Salvation Army received winter coats, linens, furniture, men’s suits, and ladies clothing
Atlanta Mission received summer clothing (some for My Sister’s House), silver, lamps, and wall art for distribution to their five thrift stores
Fur Kids took 1,000 books
In the early ‘80’s St. Martin’s expanded its outreach due to the changing community around it. In 1980 Ann Shepherd led the newly organized Saint Elizabeth’s Guild, with the sole purpose of outreach, to create the Emergency Assistance program. It met on Tuesday mornings as it continued to do so almost 40 years later until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020. Its services were intended for assistance to people living in area codes 30319 and 30341. In 2019 Emergency Assistance provided over $28,000 helping with utility bills, MARTA cards, and referral to shelters.
HATS: Hall Assistance and Transition Service
The program honors Bruce Hall, late Chair of The Board of Suthers Center, who looked for opportunities for Suthers’ to change the lives of poor people.
HATS, created in 2018, offers referrals to homeless individuals and families to shelters. Based on immediate need, the problems of homelessness addressed by the program have included addiction, hunger, illness, as well as assistance to handicapped homeless individuals. The Salvation Army, Atlanta Recovery Center, and Atlanta Mission and its various facilities have helped assist the homeless served by the Suthers.
In 2019, HATS raised $23,000 in sponsorships to shelter more than 70 homeless individuals and families. In partnership with Salvation Army, HATS now provides two beds for men and two beds for women every night.
Established in 2016, classes were initially for Hispanic mothers, but grew to include family members striving to improve essential English communication in the school, home, and community. The weekly class has a superb native Spanish instructor and has developed into the second year with students progressing in the understanding of documents and job training. A Suthers volunteer plans and assists the instructor, following up with students and preparing materials.
Although the program is temporarily halted, we look forward to when it’s safe to provide this important educational opportunity in the future.
Classes Para Ingles
Seeing a need to help children understand the joy that reading can provide, as well as to start building their own personal libraries, Suthers offered a summer Children’s Story Corner. A room at the Center was turned into the children’s room with small colorful chairs, a castle, and many books.
Stories were read to the children by retired teachers from the supporting partner churches. After playacting and refreshments, participating children selected a book to take home in special book bags made by a volunteer just for them! We are hopeful that we’ll be able to resume the Children’s Story Corner when it’s safe for both volunteers and clients to attend.
Children's Story Corner
Supporting Suthers Center for Christian Outreach
Suthers Center is staffed entirely by volunteers, and you are encouraged to contact us at email@example.com to join the dedicated volunteers of Suthers. The Board maintains a budget to fund all services, as well as overseeing memorial funds given by families in a loved one’s name. HATS is funded entirely by donations made directly to Suthers “HATS” fund for assistance to homeless clients.
The Center’s mission has been to give what we have and to do all we are able to do. Our vision is to go wherever the Suthers influence may be felt. Due to the pandemic, we’ve had to close one door but are opening another where we will again do all that we are able to do. We have been blessed with the assistance from our partner churches, the sustaining support, donations, and memorials for loved ones, and volunteers who bring their own experience to enrich the mission and its influence. It’s all about Suthers to others!
Suthers Center for Christian Outreach Board of Trustees
Chair: Joel Brockmann*
Vice Chair: Carol Smith*
Executive Director: Mary Jo Sibbald*
Treasurer/Facility: Marc Burch (Brookhaven Christian Church)
Secretary: Jim Reese*
Pantry Manager: Pam Beaubian*
Pantry Crew: Rachel Patterson (Oglethorpe Presbyterian)
HATS/Referrals: Mary Jo Sibbald* and Genie Stringer (Oglethorpe Presbyterian)
Emergency Assistance: Karen Klein*
*Saint Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church