Atlanta Volunteer Supports Social Justice and Hunger through Volunteerism

Daily Point of Light # 7818 May 23, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Emily Chatlen. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, Emily Chatlen has carved out a significant role as a champion of community service and social justice. Since 2021, Emily has participated as a part-time member of the Repair the World Service Corps four times, amassing over 200 hours of volunteer service. Her involvement is deeply rooted in weekly dialogues with her cohort where they address vital local issues such as food insecurity and housing injustice. These discussions are not just theoretical; they directly inform the type of service work Emily and her peers engage in, ensuring their efforts are responsive to the most pressing needs of their community.

Additionally, Emily currently serves as a Service Ambassador for Repair the World. In this capacity, she designs and leads service programs aimed at encouraging her peers to actively participate in community service. Each month, she organizes events that last between three to four hours, drawing more volunteers into meaningful action that supports a variety of justice-oriented initiatives.

A significant portion of Emily’s volunteer hours has also been dedicated to Concrete Jungle, an urban farm that plays a crucial role in improving food access in Atlanta. At Concrete Jungle, Emily’s tasks go beyond basic gardening; she is involved in nurturing the plants, preparing educational documents and lesson plans for community members, and sorting and distributing produce to those facing food insecurity. Her work helps bridge the gap between abundant city resources and the populations most in need of fresh, nutritious food.

Read on to find out more about how Emily’s efforts are making a tangible difference in the lives of many Atlantans.

Emily Chatlen is a passionate volunteer working with multiple organizations to end food insecurity and housing injustice across Atlanta and beyond.

Tell us about your volunteer role.

I serve as a service ambassador for a nonprofit organization called Repair the World. Repair the World engages Jews and their communities in a lifelong commitment to service through meaningful volunteering experiences. As service ambassador, I host one volunteer event per month. The events are centered around a variety of justice areas such as food justice or environmental justice.

I also serve as a pick lead during the spring season with another nonprofit organization called Concrete Jungle. Concrete Jungle transforms underutilized fruit trees and land into a healthy food source for communities in need.

Why are these issues so important to you?

Food justice is so dear to my heart for many reasons. One of the reasons being that I live in what is known as a “food desert” here in Atlanta. A food dessert is an urban area in which it is difficult to buy high-quality fresh food. Volunteering with both Concrete Jungle and Repair the World has allowed me to help in providing healthy food to communities in need.

What inspired you to get started with these initiatives?

I first heard about Concrete Jungle after moving to Athens, GA – a college town in which I did not know many people. I was looking for opportunities to get to know others in my community. After my first pick with Concrete Jungle, I was hooked! It was through Concrete Jungle that I then heard about Repair the World. I participated in two summer programs until eventually being appointed a service ambassador position in their new program.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding part of my work is when I get to see and interact with the people in my community! I love getting to know fellow volunteers. And it is such a joy to talk to the families and individuals that our produce goes to!

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

My experience as a volunteer has strengthened my ability to work with others. During our picks, it is best to work as a team and try to solve problems together. For example, if the fruit is really high on the tree, we must work as a team in order to get it. Volunteering with others has also strengthened my leadership skills.

Through Repair the World, Emily organizes monthly events that draw volunteers into meaningful action that supports a variety of justice-oriented initiatives.

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about.

I am excited for my next monthly program with Repair, which is happening in May! We are partnering with Free Minds Book Club. Free Minds is a nonprofit that uses books, creative writing and peer support to help incarcerated individuals. We will be joining them for their virtual write night held once a month. I am also looking forward to the summer season, in which Concrete Jungle gets very busy harvesting a variety of fruits around our city such as serviceberries, mulberries, etc.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

It is important for others to be involved with causes they care about because we must always seek to participate in our passions. My passions involve helping others, helping our environment and strengthening our communities.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

If you would like to start volunteering, I suggest educating yourself on local nonprofits and organization within your city. Even if your time is limited, there are plenty of service opportunities online such as virtual meetings or phone banks. Your strengths can always be used when it comes to service!

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Emily? Find local volunteer opportunities.


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