Posted by Katherine Provost, Associate Account Manager Located in the transitional Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, Café 458 is one of the supporting programs of the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficient (ACSS), a local non-profit committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness in metro-Atlanta. ACSS empowers homeless individuals to achieve economic self-sufficiency and their ultimate potential to thrive in life. ACSS’s comprehensive programs and services are designed to address a broad range of issues – from job and life skills training to employment assistance – and are tailored to the specific needs of each individual. “More than 21,000 people experienced homelessness last year in Atlanta. With the downturn of our global economy, the number of working families on the street has increased by five percent from the previous year. Many of these mothers and fathers, servicemen and women, and vulnerable young adults are willing and able to pull themselves up, but they need our support.” – ACSS Café 458 is a life-stabilization program and restaurant for disabled homeless men and women, helping them achieve person goals that lead to self-sufficiency. Despite their challenging conditions, successful graduates of Café 458 can achieve financial, housing and health stability. The organization serves 12,000 meals annually in a true restaurant environment, offering fresh and healthy menu options for those in critical need. For many of these individuals, it’s their only balanced meal of the day, and for far too many it’s their only meal of the day. Café 458 offers a free, freshly-prepared lunch each day of the week, except for Sunday, to its clientele of homeless individuals and those fighting daily to remain off of the streets. The group consists of individuals that have been recommended by ACSS or other non-profit agencies who are in need of assistance and who also want to better their lives. Sunday is reserved for the popular brunch service in which local Atlantans and fiscal supporters of the non-profit dine and pay for a meal. All of Sunday’s proceeds, including tips, are donated to help support Café 458’s on-going program. The Atlanta Performics Team has chosen Café 458 for the past three years for our annual Volunteer Day, arriving in the morning to help prep, cook and serve lunch to those in need. Friday began at 9 a.m., when we gathered around Allison Smith, one of the team leads at the organization. She walked us through the responsibilities, timeline and the day’s menu, which consisted of Chicken Marinara, Zucchini, Spinach Salad, Bread and Cookies. Pam and Darlene, two volunteers that each spend every Tuesday and Friday at Café 458, lead the team in different stages of prepping the food. Pam is a nurse at a local hospital, and had just finished a twelve-hour shift before spending the day volunteering. It resonated with me just how much people give of their time and service to others in need; and, how important on-going volunteers can be in making an organization function from week to week and year to year. We quickly got to work washing and chopping vegetables, cooking the chicken and pasta, preparing the salad, plating the dessert and setting the tables. VIPs, which is how Café 458 refers to the group of men and women that arrive for lunch, began to trickle in and our team initiated taking orders, filling drinks and running dishes to the tables. They scarfed down their meal and stayed pretty quiet for the remainder of their time. When I greeted a table and took an order, I introduced myself and asked them how they were doing. It struck me just how quiet and timid they were, as I began to realize that they must have a lot of emotions and internal thoughts when being served by others that live in a far different environment and lifestyle. I cannot even attempt to understand the hardship that they face, but for the few hours that I was there, I began to realize the incredible need for support, financial giving and volunteers for ACSS, Café 458 and other similar non-profits. The VIPs quickly finished their meals and went on their way, and we began to clean up the tables, kitchen and set up for the next service. Our time at Café 458 came to a close, but the experience and understanding of the struggle to end homelessness in our Atlanta community, in the US and worldwide remains on my mind and heart.