CJ Partner: Ernesta Ingram with Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center

For over 30 years the Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center, or SWEEAC, has assisted hundreds of families by delivering whole, quality foods to those who need it in the Metro Atlanta area. In total, they have supported 50,000 families and distributed over 1 million lbs of food to families across the state of Georgia. Additionally, SWEEAC encourages families to focus on their spiritual, mental and physical health with the goal to empower clients with the tools to be self-sufficient and productive members of society — which they do well. 

With all the good SWEEAC does for the community, it’s supporters like Ernesta Ingram, an ex-executive who decided to spend her time giving back to Atlanta by providing food assistance to disadvantaged families that make nonprofits specializing in food insecurity thrive. Ernesta was instrumental during the Concrete Jungle Covid Grocery Delivery Program, and she has been an enthusiastic ally in the food insecurity area.

Tell us a bit about yourself: What’s your day job? What’s your favorite food?

I am a former corporate executive with a major telecommunications company. Sixteen years ago, after leaving corporate life, I became the Executive Director of a, then, struggling non-profit, SWEEAC. My favorite food is any kind of seafood. It’s delicious. 

What is SWEEAC and how did you get involved?

SWEEAC is an Emergency Assistance Center helping families in the community with food, clothing, hygiene kits, school supplies, Christmas toys and referrals for other needs such as furniture and financial assistance.

I got involved after hearing the Center needed a Director. I interviewed and was offered the position. This was not my background, but I think my commitment to the mission and my love and concern for people were a perfect match.

Why do you continue to work with the organization?

Simply said, this is my passion. I care about people and I’m concerned when their basic needs are not met, such as food, clothing, and housing. The relationships I have formed with families, volunteers and other non-profits are ones I will always cherish.

How did you get involved with Concrete Jungle? What have the experiences been like?

I met Katherine, Concrete Jungle’s Executive Director, at a United Way meeting for non-profits in the food insecurity area. I introduced myself, we talked about how we could help each other by providing more healthy options to families and so began our relationship. My vision of bringing in tasting stations during food distribution days became a reality when Concrete Jungle brought in fresh produce and recipes for families. Families were able to taste produce which they normally would pass by in the grocery store and receive a recipe to help them prepare for their family. These stations became so popular, families looked forward to them and the produce we planned to feature later.

What do you see in SWEEAC’s future?

SWEEAC hopes to move to a facility that provides the room and square footage needed as we continue to provide the numerous services we offer. We hope this move happens very soon.

What do you want people to know about the organizations you work with and the work you do?

Non-profits working in areas of food insecurity have had a rollercoaster life in the last couple of years. It has been demanding on the mind and body but people with few resources look to us for help. We must treat each other with respect, love and kindness and I know the partnerships we form with one another allow us to offer so many options to those who rely on us. We are servants, and I am happy to serve.

Thanks to Concrete Jungle volunteer, Danyale Brown, for doing this interview!! Danyale is a marketing and communications professional in the greater Atlanta area. Her passion for food equity and seed spreading led to her joining the CJ team to help spread the word on programs and partnerships.