In 2004, Alli Allen approached Rabbi Segal at Temple Sinai Atlanta, offering to lead a social action project. Unbeknownst to her, a fellow congregant, Guenther Hecht, had expressed interest in starting a congregational food rescue group. Guenther was a veteran in the food rescue business; he is the founder of Second Helpings Hilton Head, a successful non-profit with United Way Agency status. Introductions were made, visions were shared, fellow congregant Shirley Leaderman Bernes came on board, and our congregational project, Second Helpings, was born.
Our vision was to create a vibrant community of food rescuers – neighbors helping neighbors – that would expand in scope and impact over time. We needed Volunteers to pick up excess nutritious food, Food Donors (restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, schools, etc.) willing to donate their surplus food and Partner Agencies (food pantries, food assistant organizations and other social service agencies) to distribute the food. During the High Holy Days, we presented our project to the congregation, and true to form, Temple Sinai members stepped up to the plate. Our first Food Donor was Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, Temple Sinai’s neighbor, with whom we had a long-standing relationship. The Community Assistance Center (CAC) became our first Partner Agency for distributing the rescued food.
As SHA’s Volunteer ranks grew, we developed a “90-Minute Model”: once each month a Volunteer would spend 90 minutes or less picking up food that otherwise would be thrown away, delivering it to a Partner Agency that distributes food to people in need. Initially, we had extraordinarily dedicated Volunteers, Myron Smith and Beth Scheuer, who donated 40-60 hours of their time each week. They recruited Volunteer drivers, Food Donors and Partner Agencies, coordinating the routes, filling vacancies and ensuring that operations ran smoothly. One of our most dedicated Volunteer drivers, Lenny Greenstein, told us that this was the finest work he had ever done. He couldn’t wait to wake up every morning to drive his route. With Lenny’s recent passing, SHA has created the Lenny Award, to be given annually to our Volunteer of the Year, as well as The Lenny Greenstein Fund that supports the important work we do.
Second Helpings grew by leaps and bounds and ultimately became too large for the confines of a congregational project. Transitioning to an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit in January, 2013, Second Helpings was renamed Second Helpings Atlanta, Inc. (SHA). Stephanie Wyatt and David Schoenberg, both long-time SHA Volunteers, served as our first two Presidents. In 2015 SHA hired its first Executive Director, Joe Labriola, who brought tremendous leadership, outreach and momentum to our organization.
Today, SHA has nearly 400 Volunteer drivers, 60+ Food Donors including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, The Davis Academy and Cox Enterprises, and a network of over 30 Partner Agencies such as the Community Assistance Center, The Atlanta Mission and Toco Hills Community Alliance. We rescue more than 100,000 pounds of food per month, enough to provide more than 83,000 meals. In January 2017, we delivered our 6 millionth pound of rescued food.
Currently led by President Gareth Young and supported by a growing Board of passionate members of the Atlanta community, SHA is poised for continued success. From our humble beginnings, SHA continues to use the power of small actions to transform people’s lives.