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By Patricia Bidar
Decatur, Georgia-based architects Ann and John Gerondelis met in their “first class on the first day of school” at Georgia Tech. Before they both graduated with master’s degrees, they were married — and members of Bread for the World.
As newlyweds, Ann and John were members of St. John's Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Atlanta, where they still worship today. At St. John’s they heard Bread for the World’s message being preached in their pastor’s sermon, taught in the Sunday school, and operated at full steam during Offerings of Letters. As a Bread for the World Covenant Church, St. John’s has participated for decades in the annual Offering of Letters campaigns.
The congregation supports other ministries that address poverty and hunger. When the weather turns cold, St. John's provides overnight refuge and food to unsheltered people. The congregation also participates in a partnership that mentors and assists refugee families and that advocates on behalf of the refugee community.
In the mid-1980s, Ann and John were eager participants in Atlanta’s Bread Group. The group, led by Bert Hahn, met monthly. “A big focus at the time was WIC [the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children],” remembers Ann. “My eyes were opened by our studies as part of this group.”
Between 1993 and 2001, John and Ann lived and worked as architects in Singapore. Although they were in their 30s and hadn’t yet started a family, they created their will before departing the United States — and included a bequest to Bread. “It was a time of reflection for us,” explains Ann.
“Bread for the World does good work, in the right way,” adds John. “We knew we wanted to make the most of whatever we had when we are gone, and that has not changed.”
As expatriates in Asia, they were not represented by a specific member of Congress. But that didn’t keep John and Ann from participating in the Offering of Letters. They wrote letters to then-President Bill Clinton. In addition to continuing her Bread-related advocacy in Singapore, Ann belonged to a group called AWARE, which provided direct care ranging from a suicide hotline to services for battered women.
Today, Ann serves as undergraduate program coordinator for the School of Industrial Design at the Georgia Technology Institute in Atlanta. John helps direct a large architecture firm that specializes in high-rise residential, retail, and office projects.
Ann and John have two daughters. One attends Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. The other, a high school student, leads a service group at her school. Both daughters have positive memories of the family’s participation in Bread’s annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.
The family continues to be involved in community outreach activities through their church, including the Offering of Letters. John adds, “Although I’m socially liberal, I’m fiscally conservative. Bread for the World helped me to understand the power of using finances wisely.”
“Bread for the World has proven itself to be a powerful venue to provide a voice for the voiceless,” says Ann. “Today loud voices very close to the microphone are building a base of power upon people’s fears. I am committed to doing all I can to ensure the voice of love and care is heard.”
Patricia Bidar is a freelance writer for nonprofits.
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