Hosea Helps to continue holiday meals despite pandemic, drop-in donations

Elisabeth Omilami insists, even in a COVID-19 pandemic, Hosea Helps cannot afford to cancel their annual holiday meals, despite a 40% drop in donations this year.

"We stand on these grounds to say that we will not cancel our Thanksgiving or Christmas day events because of a pandemic. People are calling for food, people calling for rent assistance, people are living in hotels, women living out of their cars, our city is in a crisis," said Omilami, who is the daughter of the late civil rights leader Rev. Hosea Williams.

Requests for assistance, she said are up 400 percent since the start of the pandemic in March. Canceling the event would leave nearly 8,000 homeless and struggling families with no other options for a holiday meal.

"We're going to give every family a box that will contain all of the items they need to make a Thanksgiving dinner at home. It will be a drive-through event, said the head of Hosea Helps. "We will also serve walk-ups and will receive bags with turkey sandwiches, fruit, and fresh produce so that homeless clients will be fed on Thanksgiving day as well."

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing mean the space that's hosted these large scale meals and community service events for years can no longer open its doors to Hosea Helps.

"We can't be inside the Georgia World Congress Center, so we have to be outside for a completely drive-through event and that is increasing our expense as it relates to the personal protective equipment needed for our volunteers and our staff. But, if the community steps up and hears our message, no one will have to go without a Thanksgiving feast," said Omilami from the steps of the East Lake Drive home where her father started the movement to feed Atlanta’s homeless community 50 years ago.

This year, instead of haircuts and other personal care services that are traditionally offered, Hosea Helps will give away vouchers for those services and for mental health counseling services. They're also giving away personal protection equipment and funds for rental assistance for Atlanta residents.

For more information on how to support Hosea Helps, visit 4Hosea.org.