Andy Peabody, the newly hired executive director of Rockdale Emergency Relief, shown here in front of the RER building displaying some food bank supplies and a food donation barrel, said he wants to concentrate on improving existing services provided by the nonprofit. For those interested in donating to the RER food bank, high-demand items include peanut butter, jelly, bread, canned chicken, sloppy Joes, canned chili, Chef Boyardee products, crackers, pasta and spaghetti sauce. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
On his first day as the new executive director of Rockdale Emergency Relief, Andrew Peabody hit the ground running.
“This is a great organization and I had a really good first day,” Peabody, who prefers to be called Andy, said. “I met a lot of great people here in Conyers. I went to the Kiwanis Club meeting at the Remington House and that was wonderful. One of our staff members was kind enough to do the presentation for us, so I didn’t have to make a presentation on my first day.
“I got to meet the folks at the Kiwanis Club and then later in the day, the Citizens for Georgia Power came by and delivered a check from the Georgia Power Foundation and that was wonderful. Who else has that kind of a great first day?”
The son of a minister and an educator, Peabody succeeds Ashley Roesler as executive director of RER, which was founded in 1967 to provide financial assistance to Rockdale County residents in emergency situations. He’s had a long career in public service and felt Rockdale County was a perfect fit for him, both professionally and personally.
“What makes it exciting is my brother Joe serves as pastor at Salem United Methodist Church across the county line in Newton County and it’s about five minutes from me,” he said. “Joe and I are very close and we’ve worked together on a lot of things, so the idea of being able to be close to him and his family seemed really appealing to me.”
A Phi Beta Kappa undergraduate at Emory University, Peabody earned his bachelor’s degree in history in 1992 and began pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Georgia before enrolling in divinity school in 1995. He received his masters of divinity degree (with honors) from Emory’s Candler School of Theology in 1998.
Now pursuing a doctoral degree from the divinity school at Duke University, Peabody spent a year with Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA, also known as “the domestic Peace Corps”) and for 12 years served with MUST Ministries, a community assistance organization in Cobb, Cherokee, Douglas, Paulding, Pickens and Bartow counties. At MUST, he managed a staff of more than 50 full- and part-time employees, administrated an annual program budget of more than $2 million and obtained and managed grants of more than $4 million.
Commissioned in 2007 as a deacon of the United Methodist Church and a provisional clergy member of the North Georgia Annual Conference, Peabody said the opportunity at RER came at a perfect time in his life.
“I’ve been spending a year doing the academic portion for a doctor of ministry degree with the divinity school at Duke University,” he said. “I’d been working in a local church setting during that year and I began to feel restless about getting back to work in nonprofits or social enterprises that help those in need in the community. That’s my passion and it’s what I’m doing my work on at Duke.
“I was feeling restless and I had been looking around and casting the net to see if there were any opportunities available. One day I heard from one of the RER board members about an opportunity here and I began to pursue it and things just fell into place.”
With just a few days of work under his belt, Peabody said he’s been amazed by the staff he’s working with.
“One of the things I’ve learned since coming here is that we have a great staff, a mixture of people who have been around quite a while and people who haven’t been here that long,” he said. “I’m terribly impressed that on a day to day basis they’re all about the business of meeting the needs of people who come here for help.”
Peabody added that RER will continue to play to its strengths, including its food bank, financial assistance program and clothes closet. He said he doesn’t plan any radical changes but does hope to make the organization even stronger in the community.
“What I’ve found in coming on board is we have something really nice that’s working very well,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of it. I’ve got ideas and I’ve certainly got things I want to challenge our organization and the community to perhaps do, and as we grow towards our 50th anniversary, what the community has already done.
“Some of the things we talked about in the process of my choosing RER and RER choosing me was that I feel very strongly that as an organization, a nonprofit or social enterprise, what we’re trying to do is make sure the investments people in the community are making in this organization are delivering the best results for the community and for those who are in need.
“One of the best ways to do that is to look at what you’re doing and try to focus on being better and not always chasing bigger, bigger, bigger. We can always improve upon what we do and deliver better services to the community.”
For more information on Rockdale Emergency Relief, call 770-922-0156 or visit www.rockdalecountyemergencyrelief.org.
Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens. To contact him, email email@example.com.