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Close quarters

Give & Get


After less than a week of living practically on top of one another in four neighboring hotel rooms, Fred Thompson and his 21 family members decided it was time to find a bigger place.

The family, who fled New Orleans just hours ahead of Hurricane Katrina, found a two-story rental house near the Georgia Dome off Martin Luther King Boulevard, with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. Finding the house was the easy part, says Thompson. Making it livable was another story.

"I went to Wal-Mart probably every day for the first two weeks," Thompson says. "The first time I went to the grocery store, I spent $600. I was used to shopping for myself, not for 22 people."

Thompson, who previously lived in Florida and worked in construction, says he was visiting his mother in New Orleans the weekend that Hurricane Katrina hit. He says that his relatives -- his mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins -- piled into his extended cab pickup truck, his cousin's van and another cousin's Chrysler sedan and took off for Atlanta, just ahead of the storm.

Now that they are here, Thompson says his family is focusing on making a fresh start in Atlanta. But starting over isn't cheap.

"I am just glad to have saved some money so that we could stay afloat for a few months," Thompson says.

At first he was too busy shuttling family members to and fro to look for a job. But now Thompson is considering a position as a salesman at Rooms To Go. Thompson's mother, Patricia, who worked as a presser at a dry cleaner in New Orleans, is looking for a similar job in Atlanta.

Patricia Thompson's gift to her family this holiday is a house in Decatur, that she recently purchased. She will live in the house with Fred, his daughters, and her mother.

In conjunction with CL's Give & Get, Atlanta Falcons tackle Kevin Shaffer and his wife Tara have volunteered to help make sure that the Thompson family has a very merry Christmas. They are buying the family a new refrigerator, paying for Christmas presents for the family's nine children and donating food for a large Christmas dinner. The Shaffers are also going to buy gift cards so that the Thompsons will have enough groceries and gas to start the new year right.

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