It’s an Atlanta tradition: Hosea Feed the Hungry’s Christmas dinner for thousands of hungry and homeless people. But donations came up short this year.
During the economic downturn, donations started to go down, too, said Awodele Omilami, the director of logistics for Hosea. Not enough food was donated this year, which meant the organization had to spend more money.
At the same time that donations have decreased, Omilami said the number of families looking for help has increased. Sometimes the difference between a home and the street is just a few hundred dollars in rent. So he wants to step in earlier with financial help, and work on keeping people from losing their homes in the first place.
“Every time we have to purchase food for an event, that’s less money that can go for homeless prevention, rental assistance, utility assistance,” said Omilami.
More than 7,000 people are getting food from Hosea today, both at the World Congress Center and from home deliveries. And 2,000 kids are receiving gifts.
In the morning, about fifty people were waiting in line, including Joyce Broadwater, who was by herself.
“I’m thankful for somebody caring about people,” she said. “It usually takes something major for people to donate time, donate this or that.”
In addition to the turkey dinner, there are clothes, showers, legal and medical advice, counselors, a barber shop and hair salon.
And then there’s the company.
“It’s just good to see a lot of people to get together on Christmas that don’t really have anybody,” said Victor Blackson, also in line. “And it’s a joyful event for the less fortunate. But I feel fortunate just to be here.”
In the kitchen, volunteers like Kaena Appling share a similar sentiment.
“It means a lot to be here today,” she said. “I mean just to be able to give back and see people smile and know that you’re making a difference.”
Civil rights leader Hosea Williams founded the organization in 1971. His family, including Omalami, who’s his grandson, still runs it.
“Every time I’m here, I look at 900 volunteers and I’m suddenly reminded, here go 900 other people like me,” said Omalami.
Hosea Feed the Hungry operates year-round. The next big holiday dinner will be in January, for Martin Luther King Day.