Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help people who need it even more. “It’s better to give than to receive,” says Atlanta man Willie Fowler.
Thanks to him and his wife Carol, a self-described regular, working couple, 200 homeless people in Atlanta enjoyed a four-course dinner — plus hors d’oeuvres and desserts – in a beautiful restaurant. Each place was set with gold plates and crystal glasses.
The Fowlers’ generosity was an innovative approach to a personal dilemma. They had booked a “creme de la creme wedding venue” when their daughter, Tamara, got engaged. As anyone who has planned a fancy American wedding has already guessed, they had to put down a sizable and nonrefundable deposit.
Then Tamara cancelled the nuptials.
Rather than cancelling the banquet and losing their deposit, the Fowlers decided to put it to good use by inviting homeless people to the fete.
The family contacted Hosea Feed the Hungry, an organization Tamara and her brother had volunteered for, which got the word out and brought in the guests, including many children. A clown, face-painting, and other events kept the kids busy when they weren’t eating.
Homeless children are not hard to find in Atlanta. More children live in poverty there “than anywhere else in the entire country,” Hosea reports. Boston’s NPR station, WBUR, says that “70 percent of the homeless in Atlanta are children.” About 1.6 million kids are homeless nationwide.
Their plight usually isn’t the fault of shiftless parents. Blame it instead on low-wage jobs, because 40 to 60 percent of homeless people work.
The Fowlers’ acknowledgement of the dignity of people without homes is an invigorating break from the nationwide campaign to strip the homeless of their possessions, food and even liberty, and to treat them like criminals for blameless behavior.
The Fowlers could inspire similar events across the country. “Thousands of weddings are cancelled every year,” according to WBUR’s Robin Young.
The Fowlers themselves aren’t done. They called the reception the “First Annual Fowler Family Celebration of Love” and plan to hold a similar event next year, but they envision something even bigger. They are looking for sponsors to help foot the bill. Hosea CEO Elizabeth Omilami loves the idea. “People found out that somebody cares about them,” she said, “and that’s worth more than any cash we could have given them.”
Slideshows of the event are available at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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