In a year that has been significantly difficult for needy families, Atlanta-based Hosea Helps has been working overtime to assist families with services including rental assistance, food distribution, intensive case management, and support programs for individuals and families who are less fortunate.
“(The year) 2020 has been a year of celebration and mourning for the Hosea Helps family and team,” explained Elizabeth Omilami, CEO of Hosea Helps. “We are celebrating our 50th year of service, and, at the same time, we are mourning with those who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19.
“Our hearts are saddened by the overwhelming devastation that has hit our communities,” Omilami continued. “The loss of financial security for so many is why Hosea Helps kept pushing through the challenges that we faced to make sure that this Christmas event could provide food and gifts for those hit hardest by the pandemic.”
She added, “My father would be greatly saddened and disappointed by the current state of our communities, as he fought his entire life to bring forth resources to our people.”
Omailami, the daughter of the late Rev. Hosea and Juanita T. Williams, grew up in the organization and has developed a deep love for the African-American communities. She kindly smiles and speaks of retirement while in the same sentence she boldly speaks of the bright future for Hosea Helps.
“We do this work for the least of those, who know what it is like to be abandoned by its own county, city, and country,” Omilami said. “For those that have not been viewed as worthy amongst society, and those that have no representation in our legal system.”
Last month, Hosea Helps celebrated its 50th Thanksgiving Food Distribution. For the last 50 years, Hosea Helps has provided the largest sit-down Thanksgiving dinner in the Southeast.
However, in recent years, the dinner has expanded, under the leadership of Omilami and her husband Afemo to include many other services and amenities to Atlantans in need.
On Wednesday, the residents of Metro Atlanta gathered for the annual Hosea Helps Christmas event and toy giveaway, despite the global pandemic.
Then, yesterday, the organization hosted a drive-through children’s party and toy giveaway. Both events were hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center.
After 50 years of service, the 501(c)(3) charity organization — founded in 1971 — has emerged as one of the most significant Human Service Organizations in the Southeast providing direct services year-round to more than 50,000 people each year.
A treasured Civil Rights activist, former Atlanta City Councilmember, and Dekalb County Commissioner, Williams founded the organization with his wife Juanita in 1971 as Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless.
Under Williams’ guidance, the organization garnered a reputation for hosting feedings for Atlanta’s homeless, also providing clothing, haircuts, and a few other services to those in need during select times of the year—namely during Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Easter Sunday.
By that time he established Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless, Willams had secured his place in history as an iconic Civil Rights leader.
Williams was one of the leaders for the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, also known as Bloody Sunday. He was also responsible for numerous strikes and protests supporting black workers. Not to mention, he confronted the Ku Klux Klan during a protest against racism in Forsyth County, Georgia, which was once an all-white county.
“He would (lead) movements throughout the South,” Omilami said. “When I say movements, I mean someone calling on the phone saying, ‘My son just got beat half-to-death by some cops. I need you to come to Albany, Georgia, and do something about it.’”
After her father’s passing, Omilami not only raised the organization’s budget from $300,000 to $2 million but also pushed it towards providing services 365 days a year and expanding the number of services that Hosea Helps offers.
Having emerged from Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless to its current name Hosea Helps, the organization collects funds and in-kind gifts throughout the year.
Omilami said she is grateful for all the support they receive from the community and corporate partners like Kroger, Publix, and the Arthur Blank Foundation but wishes that celebrities and influencers who call Atlanta home would step up and do more.
As Hosea Helps brings its 50th year of service to a close, Omilami stressed the importance of celebrating the exceptional achievements of the organization her parents founded out of necessity years ago, as 50 years later, it has served more than 15,000 residents now dealing with the impact of COVID-19, which has significantly ravaged Atlanta’s Black communities.
The organization’s social impact since January 2020, with tremendous community effort, has served more than 60,000 client interactions this year and counting with more than 10,000 volunteer hours, 50,000 client’s interactions, 10,000 children helped, and 10,000 free food packages.
“Together, we as a community have a proven track record that we can alter the course of someone’s life, increase the quality of life for thousands, and stand as a community in the face of poverty,” Omilami said. “However, it must be done together — communities helping communities, people helping people — one kind gesture at a time.”