COLLEGE PARK, Ga – On Saturday morning, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in collaboration with Love Beyond Walls, a local nonprofit that distributes food and goods to people in need and the unhoused, collected hundreds of dry and canned goods in order to bag and distribute to people in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
More than 400 of those bags and tables full of socks, shoes, hygiene kits, pet food, flashlights and blankets were stationed against the fence in a parking lot on East Main Street just after 9 am. People came to the holiday giveaway in cars, vans and by foot to receive the food and goods. Love Beyond Walls holds a giveaway and distribution every week at their office just a block away, but cofounders Cecilia and Dr. Terence Lester, PhD knew this event was going to need more help than usual.
“Events like this are very important because they allow people to not only come out and volunteer, but it’s a way for people to maybe start a tradition,” Cecilia said. “We create opportunities like this for that to happen.”
Terence, a newly minted PhD, was recently in California delivering a lecture at a university, said of giving back and volunteering, “Service isn’t a feeling, it’s a lifestyle.”
“This gives people who go about their normal lives a chance to pause and consider giving back to their community,” Terence added. “It’s about building a community.”
Volunteers included employees of Story Church Atlanta, Southwest Airlines, and the before mentioned D.A.’s Office. A large number of socks were donated by Westminster Academy. Individuals donated sneakers as well.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrived to see dozens of volunteers, some of whom were employees of her office, assisting locals on walks back to their cars with bags of food that included frozen turkeys or with their shopping carts and buggies.
“We really have to give a full shoutout to Love Beyond Wall. This is their event,” Willis, dressed in a red Fulton County District Attorney’s Office polo and jeans, said.
Willis added that her office collected 402 bags full of goods, but the credit has to go to the Lesters and Love Beyond Walls because they host food giveaways like this every week.
“I stand in awe of the founders and we are just here to help in any way we can,” Willis said. “This is just a little way we can help and give back. We want to operate as a community.”
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has an annual coat drive and school supply giveaway that is regularly attended by hundreds of county residents.
A Love Beyond Walls volunteer who doesn’t live in College Park, but is familiar with the city due to his work with the organization, was on the corner making sure traffic flowed in and out of the Woodward Academy school bus parking lot smoothly. Alpharetta resident Stephan Smith said he has volunteered his time for close to nine years.
“It is important to me to volunteer because growing up, I was always taught that when you’re blessed you give back to the community whenever you can,” Smith said.
Story Church Atlanta Pastor Sam Collier led a number of his congregation in volunteering efforts Saturday. he too believes it is better to give than to receive, he said.
“Jesus instructed us to care for the least of these and we want to give to those that are in need the most,” Collier said.
Zion Lester, daughter of Cecilia and Terence, has been volunteering at events like this since she was very young. She knew what to expect, but also was moved by the amount of people willing to give their time for others Saturday morning.
“It feels really inspiring. It feels good to see other people do things from their hearts,” Zion, 15, said.