Wednesday's Woman: Laura Drake
Laura Drake is on a mission to put food on the tables of all Snellville residents.
Look no further than Laura Drake, director of the Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry, for the epitome of an inspirational Snellville woman.
Drake, mother of two and Snellville resident for the past 14 years, is thoroughly committed to providing food and financial assistance to individuals and families in crisis. The 44-year-old does it with Southern charm and a gusto that would leave even comedian Robin Williams breathless.
“I keep everybody laughing,” she quipped, when asked about her role at the co-op.
Despite her spry personality, Drake prefers to deflect attention away from herself when talking about the co-op. She gives credit to the army of volunteers who help run the place — and to God, her constant companion. She concedes only that she sets the vision, takes care of the business side, and is the face of the operation.
“God brings the people who take the vision and make it a reality,” she said.
The co-op, located behind the Community of Grace Church on Athens Highway in Grayson, exists to provide food to struggling residents of Snellville, Loganville and Grayson. An average of 25 people a day visit the co-op for assistance; they leave with a week’s supply of food. In extreme circumstances, families receive a check toward a utility bill or for prescriptions.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to come here for help,” Drake said. “They have preconceived ideas. But we love them and respect them. There are places you can go to get help with things, but there aren’t many occasions where people will stop what they’re doing, hold your hands, and give you love, as we do.”
Drake talks about her clients like old friends. She knows their families, their quirks, what makes them smile, and, most poignantly, what’s causing them pain. She makes it her business to ensure that people who come in leave with hope, acceptance and encouragement.
“So many people are in culture shock right now," she said. "They’re used to living a certain lifestyle, and the ability to live that lifestyle has been removed."
The co-op relies exclusively on donations, which come via a network of 30 churches, businesses and organizations, and from local individuals. This time of year is particularly challenging for the co-op, as stocks amassed over the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons start to dwindle.
“We need consistent donations,” Drake said. “I tell people to pick up their bible and a can of beans and bring them to church. It’s the bible and beans program!”
She encourages people to think creatively about ways they can help their less-fortunate neighbors, such as using coupons to pick up extra grocery items that they can donate or asking friends to bring along nonperishable food or toiletry items to donate to the co-op.
Children have collected food at their birthday parties and then donated it. Girl Scout troops put together grab bags to give out to families with children. In the summer, the co-op distributed 2,500 snack bags to families like these.
"The state of the economy creates real strains on the family," Drake said. "It’s a heartache for me. But we’re all in this together. And God is in it for us, and he’s good.”
Drake draws her inspiration, and presumably her remarkable energy, from her grandmother, who, she said, was the “most feisty and most giving person in the world.”
She also admires Martin Luther King and reserves her highest admiration for Mother Theresa.
“Her whole life was dedicated to the Lord, and she wasn’t afraid. I don’t want to be afraid,” Drake said. “When I’m gone, I want this world to be a better place because I was here.”
How you can help:
• Provide financial assistance—tax-deductible donations can be made by mail, in person, or online at www.segwinnettcoop.org.
• Become a Barrel Partner—provide a barrel for food donations at your church or business.
• Help promote awareness for the co-op.