Jennifer Barnes

2022 Good Neighbor Awards Winner

Keller Williams
Sandy Springs, Ga.

When coronavirus shutdowns began, Jennifer Barnes thought she would help feed 10 families. It didn’t take long for her to realize that the vulnerabilities in her community were much deeper than temporary food insecurity. The 10 households grew to 60, leaving her out of food with 30 people still waiting. “Fear and despair were the two words to describe that day,” Barnes says, “fear that we were in over our heads and despair that we were letting down people who needed us.” That moment of despair became transformational. Barnes rallied volunteers and met the demand, which she discovered existed far before the pandemic. The number of visitors to the pantry grew entirely through word of mouth, Barnes says. Two years later, Solidarity Sandy Springs provides food and many other support services—including clothing, health clinics, and homeless kits—to more than 25,000 families, primarily members of the Latino community who work in service industries. Solidarity also fosters community engagement through events such as Secret Santa giveaways that benefited nearly 1,200 kids last year, Mother’s Day shopping for kids, and back-to-school backpack distributions for more than 1,000 students. The efforts are fully funded by community donations. “Our tagline is that we are ‘neighbors helping neighbors,’ ” Barnes says. Her dream is to procure a permanent location. So far, Barnes’ real estate contacts have loaned her five temporary spaces rent-free. Repeatedly moving takes a toll, but Barnes will persevere. “We have a doormat that says, ‘All are welcome here,’ ” she says. “We’ll never turn anyone away. People hear that we have good food in abundance and come to us.”

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