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Joyous Celebrations of the successful Upahar 2024 Home Build Project by the Hindu Temple of Atlanta and Hindu Organizations in Collaboration with the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity

Three Cheers for the Upahar Build Celebrations. Zack Mountcastle Left on Top Row. Caitlyn First right and Candice second right top row,



by Mahadev Desai
 

Despite the cold, windy weather, the celebration of the successful completion of the Upahar Build by the Hindu Temple of Atlanta (HTA) in collaboration with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, in front of the beautiful House, on Saturday March 23, was marked by enthusiastic fervor, community spirited gusto and joyous camaraderie by an impressive gathering of the volunteers, donors, and project officials.
Prior to the celebrations, a delicious lunch, hot tea and soft drinks from the HTA were served to all. The attendees were then given a tour of the house where the HTA’s Upahar Build leader Dr. Sujatha Reddy and few representatives and volunteers from other supporting Temples were interviewed by TV Asia’s Anjali Chhabria.


All the attendees then took position on the porch and steps for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to begin. The owner of the new home, Denea Simpson, who has a glowing, smiling face was flanked by Atlanta Habitat’s
Sponsorship Manager Caitlyn McCollough, Chief Development Officer Candice Jordan and House Leader Zack Mountcastle; HTA’s Dr. Reddy; HTAS’s Secretary Sairam Surapaneni; Sri Shakti Mandir’s Shri Bhikhubhai Patel and Atlanta’s freelance journalist Mahadev Desai.
Prior to Dr. Reddy’s speech, Shri Sairam commented “


Upahāra refers to an “offering”, according to Bāṇa’s Kādambarī. Thes Hindu Temple of Atlanta along with likeminded organizations, offers help to a family in need. This was initially started by HTA’s Dr Seshu Sarma in 2017 and we sponsored two homes. Now this outreach initiative has been revived by Dr Sujatha Reddy and we have sponsored one home. We have also promised to raise funds for another home in 2026, along with our friendly organizations of Hindu faith.”

Dr. Reddy delivering her speech


In a captivating keynote speech, Dr. Sujatha said;
“Upahar 2024 is an initiative of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Atlanta in building and providing a home for a deserving family. In my role as HTA’s Community Services Committee, I initiated the project with the support of Shri Aravind Goli (president, HTA), Shri Sairam surapaneni(secretary)and spearheaded the project, raising the funds for the sponsorship. I appealed to many organizations like Sri shakti mandir, North America Shirdi Sai Temple of Atlanta, Chinmaya Mission Atlanta, Sewa International Atlanta Chapter, Sri Hanuman Mandir, Grandige Family Charitable Foundation Inc., Sangisetty Charitable Organization, Sai Health Fair and many generous individuals to contribute their funds, time and effort into the successful completion of the project. Upahar 2024 has raised close to $80,000 and has arranged for about 25 to 30 volunteers for each of the 8 build Saturdays from January 27 to March 23 and lunch on all the build days. Upahar is a helping hand to a hard-working low-income family in realizing their dream of home ownership thus providing hope, stability and shelter for the next generation. The owner of the new home Denea Simpson has lived here in Atlanta for the last 33 years. She is a Certified Nursing Assistant. She has worked very hard in the mental health industry taking care of elderly patients. In Denea's words, the most exciting aspects of owning a home will be "having a yard, [her] own space, [and her] kid's rooms." After all of her hard work, her dream of homeownership has finally come true! Denea –like all Atlanta Habitat homebuyers will purchase her house., pay a monthly mortgage, complete 250 sweat-equity hours, attend 17 homeowner-education classes, and participate in five financial coaching sessions. Denea is thankful to everyone that donated and volunteered to the Upahar house to help make her first home affordable.

Denea at the Upahar 2024 Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony March 23,2024


Today, we would like to especially thank ATLANTA HABITAT’s Executive Team’s dedicated and committed Sponsorship Manager Caitlyn McConnough; House Leader Zack Mountcastle and Chief Development Officer Candice Jordan.
I would also like to thank our tireless volunteers—the heartbeat of this project. You’ve not only built houses but also forged bonds—connecting hearts across cultures, faiths, and different backgrounds.To name a few; Rama Balachandran; Vani Rao; Padma Rallapalli; Shiva Vaidyanathan and Shanmugam family.
 And Denea; As you begin a new chapter in your life, let us say: “Welcome home!”

Denea 's cheery thanks to House Leader Zack Mountcastle



As we look ahead, let us remember that our work is far from done. The Upahar project is not just about one house; it’s about a ripple effect—a chain of kindness that extends beyond walls. Let us continue to build bridges, break barriers, and uplift lives. Life is about what you give and not what you get. Every act, however small, of compassion and service counts. “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.
Enjoy the rest of the program.
Thank you all;
Denea thankfully remarked;
“The habitat first time owner program to me is a blessing and is one of the greatest opportunities for families. I have three boys and it’s a fresh start for me and them especially because the cost of living in Atlanta is so high now. The program means stability. It means I can work but still be home to cook dinner for my family. 
Instead of working to pay rent and have no time to see my kids and family. Their whole process makes you feel special and proud. So even though when there are moments when you want to give up, they don’t allow you. They hold your hand all the way and give you so much inspiration that you feel that what you are doing is for your bright future. And it’s true. The program was one of the greatest experiences in my life. Thanks all.” 
In the words of the Habitat house leader Zack, who has been a big part of making the Build happen, said " I love the good will, positive spirits, openness to learn and try of Upahar volunteers and the great FOOD". Upahar thanks all the donors, volunteers and others who have made this success possible!”
Caitlyn commented
“Atlanta Habitat is incredibly grateful to have the support of the Upahar Build in 2024 and to celebrate Denea's hard work in purchasing her home through Atlanta Habitat. We appreciate the support from the Hindu Community and the Hindu Temple of Atlanta in making this build a reality. We are especially appreciative of all of the efforts from the Build Coordinator Rama, and the build champion , Dr. Reddy. We could not continue this work without dedication partners and are looking forward to the 2026 Upahar Build !”

Atlanta Habitat for Humanity's Candice Jordan and Denea at the Upahar 2024 Dedication Ceremony March 23,2024


Candice Jordan shared that Upahar is a Hindi word for "gift" She was very happy to get a chance to commemorate the completion of one more home build and to felicitate Denea who is a loving and caring mother and healthcare provider for seniors. The home was sponsored by HTA and members of Hindu temples across Atlanta who not only gave their financial support, but also their gift of time to build the home, so that the cost of the home is affordable for the homebuyer. This experience, like each of our previous home dedications, was truly a gift to me. My heartfelt congratulations and good wishes to Denea!
Shri Bhikhubhai said that Sri Shakti Madir was happy and proud to have supported HTA’s recent home build project as well as the previous ones with funds and food and will continue to do so in 2026 as well.”
 

It was time for ribbon-cutting! Loud applause filled the air as Denea cut the ribbon with a huge pair of scissors!
Dr. Reddy, Zack and Vani gave gifts to Denea to celebrate her new home.
The joyous celebrations concluded with the attendees joined in enthusiastic clapping and cheering as they posed for photos and videos.


 

' Apr-09-2024