Lisa and Marianna Hiles

From left, mother Lisa Hiles and daughter Marianna Hiles prepare sandwiches to deliver to the downtown Atlanta homeless population. 

DUNWOODY, Ga. — In the middle of a global crisis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but one Dunwoody family is showing how small acts of kindness can still make a difference.

Lisa Hiles, a 30-year resident of Dunwoody, said she has always tried to give back, going on several mission trips, but she felt particularly called to action in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My daughter is home from college, and I wanted to find a project that she and I could do together,” Hiles said. “I was praying about it, trying to figure out what to do.”

Every week, the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta distributes sandwiches to the downtown homeless population and others in need. Hiles first heard about the program through a friend who had donated.

“I was listening to mass online, and the priest said, ‘We still need sandwiches to feed the homeless,’” she said. “That was my call.”

Lisa reached out to her neighbors in the Brook Farm subdivision, while her daughter, Marianna, reached out to her friends. Several families made and dropped off as many sandwiches as they could.

“We just said ‘We’re going to take sandwiches down. If anybody wants to make them, just bring them to our house. We’ll load them up and drive them down,’” Lisa said.

Though Atlanta’s homelessness population has nearly cut in half over the last decade, there are still about 3,000 people who lack a home, 700 of whom are unsheltered, according to the latest point-in-time count.

The mother-daughter team has delivered sandwiches downtown for five weeks now, averaging nearly 400 a week. For their most recent delivery, they had 580 sandwiches, and the coolers barely fit in the car, she said.

“It’s been very encouraging that people want to give back and to try to help those who are in need,” Lisa said. “People ask me how long I’m going to do it, and I say I have no idea. I’m going to pray about it and see what happens one day at a time.”

She said she is not in a hurry to stop because she wants to encourage people to join her in giving back. The Hiles’ actions have already had a ripple effect on their friends and neighbors. Lisa said she is especially proud to see families with young children teaching their kids the importance of service.

“It’s very gratifying and very touching to know we’ve done just a little part to help,” Lisa said. “I’m sure other people are doing more important things than this, but it’s one small thing. I’m just happy that people are encouraged by working together and able to feel good by helping those who are less fortunate.”

Carson Cook is an Editor with Appen Media Group and covers Johns Creek, Dunwoody and Fulton County.

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