Two weeks ago I wrote about many of -- no way to include them all -- Gwinnett's achievements and accolades, as inspired by a conversation with one of our newer residents. As we talked, she was quite impressed with the varied special interest groups and our significant contributions to worldwide charities like Relay for Life. But then she pondered if there was any one cause that might be the "glue" that held Gwinnett County together. I thought about that long and hard, and here's what I came up with: our Gwinnett County Cooperative Ministry.
Gwinnett is the only county in the state that completely serves its residents with a comprehensive cooperative ministry. More than 150 churches, organized by clusters, support six co-ops in North Gwinnett, Duluth, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Lilburn and South Gwinnett. By dividing up the territory and networking with each other, the co-ops can focus on the needs of their own neighborhoods without duplicating services or having requests fall through the cracks. But this ministry involves more than just financial contributions from churches. People of all faiths or with no religious affiliation at all serve as volunteers in myriad ways.
Holtkamp HVAC, a locally owned business, organizes food drives at high rivalry high school football games. The U.S. Postal Service donates the contributions from their annual food drive and almost every school in the county conducts food and clothing drives for their local co-op.
Boy Scouts contribute in various ways on a regular basis with service projects like cleaning, painting and pulling weeds along with food drives. So far this year, BSA Troop 509 has donated more than 7,000 items to the Lawrenceville Co-op, largely due to the generosity of Crider Poultry which contributed more than 5,000 cans of chicken breasts and sliced roast beef. This troop of 20 boys aspires to reach 10,000 items by December.
Many local businesses keep barrels in their stores where customers can donate food and toiletry items. Some Weight Watchers groups sponsor a challenge in which members donate a pound of food for every pound they lose.
Many Gwinnettians tithe directly to their local co-op and Patty Kosolapoff, assistant director at the Lilburn Coop, knows of waitresses and pizza deliverers who tithe their tips in cash every month.
"A lot of people who receive help are so appreciative they tell us the next time they come back they'll bring us a check, and many of them do. Some of them become regular contributors and volunteers," Kosolapoff said.
If the co-op system is indeed the "glue" I'm trying to find that holds everyone together, I can't think of anything more bonding than that.
For information on how to be included in the giving or receiving, call 770-995-3339 or visit www.gwinnetthelpline.org for a complete listing of the Gwinnett co-ops.
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.