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Dothan Housing partners with local nonprofit, attorney to distribute more than 1,300 meals

Vanessa Riley Harris Dothan Housing CEO & Ben Crump
volunteers Ben Crump & Vanessa Riley Harris  Ben Crump
food bags Attry. Ben Crump with founder volunteers handing out food bags


More than 1,300 meals were distributed to single-parent households in Dothan on Saturday during the kickoff of an inaugural multi-state initiative aimed at assisting families in five cities and Washington, D.C.

The Ben Crump SPINN Feeding Initiative (BCFI), an effort by civil rights attorney Ben Crump of the Ben Crump Law Firm and Dothan native Vanessa Riley Harris, founder and executive director of Single Parents in Need Nationally (SPINN), supports single-parent households across five states and one territory.

The initiative partnered with Dothan Housing on Saturday at the Our Community Housing and Enrichment Center on Montana Street to distribute groceries. Several volunteers, led by local volunteer Mary Hayes, provided groceries to families as they drove up to receive the bags. Several ACOM students were also there to provide resources regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

There are plans for similar stops in Houston, Tampa, New York City, and Washington, D.C., before completing in Atlanta in January.

According to census and foundation data, single-parent households make up around 30% of each metropolitan area that BCFI intends to serve. The initiative's goal is to meet the food security needs of at least 10% of the single-parent households in each of these communities.

Dothan Housing Authority Chief Executive Officer Sam Crawford said it made sense that Dothan's housing and enrichment center was the site for the local event.

"Because we understand our 'why,' this partnership reflects the Dothan Housing commitment to community and belief that we should be in service to the least of us," Crawford stated.

Harris, a decorated Air Force veteran who founded SPINN in Dothan after navigating single-parent resources as a mother of three after the death of her husband, started partnering with Crump and other local organizations is more than necessary in the Wiregrass area after the strains brought on by the COVID pandemic.

"We know that when children are fed and they're happy, they do much better in school and the communities thrive as well. We saw all over the world that people were hurting, losing jobs, closing businesses or struggling to stay open due to the pandemic. We wanted to sit down and come up with a plan to help them," Harris stated.

Joannie Gutzmore, a recipient and volunteer who attended Saturday's event, said the initiative was indeed a blessing. Gutzmore said she became a single parent of six after the death of her husband.

"A lot of times, programs that assist families forget about the single parents who are among the working poor. We may have nice cars or live in a nice neighborhood, but many times single mothers and single fathers are living from paycheck to paycheck," she said.

More information regarding the Ben Crump SPINN Feeding Initiative is available at

Written by Dothan Eagle