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On iconic Buford Highway, businesses and residents brace for COVID-19's impact

Buford Highway is the iconic, international strip of Atlanta that gets written up in Bon Appetit and Food and Wine. But it's also much more.

DORAVILLE, Ga. — Small businesses and strong community make up the core of Atlanta's iconic Buford Highway. They're all bracing now during a brutal time.

On a Friday at an apartment complex along the highway, volunteers from the nonprofit Los Vecinos de Buford Highway handed out lunches for elementary school children in need.

“We want to try to help everyone," said volunteer Jaime Martinez.

Buford Highway is the iconic, international strip of Atlanta that gets written up in Bon Appetit and Food and Wine. The restaurants and plazas that stitch it together these days show empty parking lots.

“I continuously see businesses temporarily close," said Lily Pabian, executive director of the nonprofit We Love BuHi. “I think people don’t understand there’s an ecosystem here. It’s thriving, it’s vibrant, and it’s been going on for 40 years.”

We Love BuHi is working to amplify the voices of businesses who face barriers of language and culture.

“We tried to set up GoFundMes," Pabian said, "but some of the responses were, ‘Isn’t that shameful to go out and ask for money?’ They’re having to reinvent themselves very quickly, and they’re blindsided with all the new regulations.”

But Buford Highway goes beyond restaurants. It’s apartment complexes and tens of thousands of metro Atlantans who represent many nations.

Nonprofits like Los Vecinos de Buford Highway are working with landlords on help with rent – and with schools on communication. On this day they brought food to hundreds.

“Everything we do, we do from our heart," Martinez said, "because we love this community, and we want to help as much people as we can.”

“In most places in Atlanta, when things get redefined, cultures get lost," Pabian said. "When we come out of this, what is it going to look like?”

For more on both nonprofits, check out We Love BuHi and Los Vecinos de Buford Highway.

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