From homeless to home – cozy decorating tips on a shoestring budget

Imagine you and your spouse and children have no place to live. You have bounced around between friends, family and even slept in your car. Your spouse is disabled and you are doing all you can to simply feed your children and live another day.

Then MUST Ministries hears of your plight and offers you a place to live. It’s a beautiful two-bedroom apartment, fully furnished with a walk-in closet, washer and dryer, fireplace and even a little patio near a playground.

Thanks to a Housing and Urban Development grant, MUST is opening 10 apartments this spring to house three families and 14 individuals. The challenge was how to make these sterile, empty apartments feel like home. That’s when Rachel Castillo, MUST VP of Programs, teamed up with Marcie Millholland, a designer and youth minister, to change everything.

Marcie Millholland

Marcie Millholland

“We started at the MUST Donation Center and found artwork, mirrors and bedding. We found lamps at the MUST Marketplace thrift store and started searching for furniture. The grant covered some furniture and some was given to MUST.”

Marcie took donated sheets and made them into bright, white curtains with teal stamps. She covered pillows and spray-painted picture and mirror frames for the mantle. Candles added ambiance and plants, fruit and other accents made the apartment smell inviting.

“Being creative with what you find is the key to decorating on a budget, but it’s so satisfying to design with a frugal spending budget. When you see the finished work, it’s amazing what you can do from thrift store finds!”

She spray painted an old metal typewriter table, perfect for outdoor living, to add a pop of color on the patio. She used a bowl of oranges for the dining room table, adding the color with fruit to create an inviting place to dine.

A throw pillow at the desk chair and a wall of artwork in the living room all gave the environment a welcoming feel. Marcie’s Bachelor of Visual Art degree from Georgia State University and experience as a designer certainly helped her find unique ways to upgrade the space.

This project was a ministry of love, she said. “If I can use my gifts and talents to help others, I want to do that.” She’s already planning to help others in the MUST housing program to make their environments more comfortable and inviting. “It adds a sense of dignity,” she said.

Can you imagine walking into a fully designed apartment after not having a place to call home in more than a year? “This place will quickly become home and be a life-changing second chance.”

Banquet professional goes from poverty to management

Quenton Harrison is an energetic man with a mission to move forward and help others along the way, but life wasn’t always like this for the outgoing banquet professional.

Tim Tebow poses with Quenton Harrison at the College Football Hallf of Fame.

Tim Tebow poses with Quenton Harrison at the College Football Hallf of Fame.

He grew up in Queens, NY with his brother and a single mom, following the death of his father. Life wasn’t easy and he struggled. “I had no direction for years… but MUST Ministries changed all of that.”

“I worked in Job Corps and Fed Ex and while I enjoyed the people, I still had no real direction. I got married and came to Atlanta to pursue more,” he said. “I let my wife have the car and I walked everywhere or took the bus.”

Harrison said he kept walking up and down Highway 41, right by the MUST Marietta program office. For some reason, he felt drawn to the MUST building and thought “maybe there’s a job there”. “One day, my internal voice – the God within me – drew me and I went up the hill and walked through the front door.”

He was feeling despair and empty. “When I walked in to MUST, I felt shallow. When I walked out of there, I felt like a champion. Leaving MUST with food, paperwork for a job and clothing was a turning point. “I felt like I could do anything. MUST made me feel like a man. I am capable! I am confident! I had never felt like that in my life.”

He said he learned that thoughts lead to feeling and feelings lead to actions. He thought about working in the food industry and got excited about that idea. He started serving and working in catering. Eventually, he spent three years at St. Regis Hotel and gained invaluable experience.

Three years ago, his next step was to move to an incredible opportunity. He became the Assistant Banquet Manager for Omni Hotels, a job spanning the renowned hotel, CNN Center and College Football Hall of Fame. He is now responsible for 40 people, plus a 15-person stewarding crew.

The $20 million Omni banquet division supports an amazing 1,200 events a year. “We serve three to five events a day, so it’s a very busy pace,” he said. Sometimes he reflects on where he came from and how he got to a role with so much responsibility. “You have to ask and seek,” he said.

Recently, he came back to MUST. This time, he wanted to give back. “Six years ago, I walked into MUST and it changed my life. Now I want to teach others that they can have the same outcome.” He wants to give hope. “Tomorrow is promised to you if you promise yourself to tomorrow,” he said, his conversations now peppered with motivational phrases.

Harrison approached MUST Employment Services and began teaching a comprehensive course on banquet serving. His classes include hands-on demonstrations and role play, appropriate demeanor, approaching a guest, event etiquette and the fine points of properly serving. He even teaches self-empowerment and character perfection that help clients become outstanding in their field of serving.

In addition, he comes to the Elizabeth Inn homeless campus and recruits participants during the week before the classes. Beyond teaching, he has reached out to his friends in the food service field and asked that they hire people who have been certified through the MUST course he teaches.

His efforts have already benefitted many seeking employment. “Food service is a good business. There is always work and people with skills can create a stable lifestyle,” he said. “I love what I do and I love what MUST does. Now I have a chance to blend those together and help others.”


A simple way to give help that people really need!

Amazon shopping cartWe all want to help people in need, but it’s not always simple.

We want to give a person something that really helps. But how do we know what’s needed? And how do we get it to the people who need it most?

MUST Ministries has a simple solution: Our new wish list.

The wish list contains essential items that all our clients need, including necessities we often take for granted: towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and many other everyday items. You’ll also find items MUST Ministries need for its daily operations, like trash bags and copy paper.

Simply click this link and select the items you want to donate — and the items will be shipped directly to our Donation Center.

How easy is that?! You know exactly what you’re contributing, and you know what you are giving to make a difference in someone else’s life.

You can find a direct link to the wish list on our website:

MUST Ministries has been awarded Charity Navigator’s highest rating for dependability and excellence. For more information about MUST’s dedication to ethics and transparency, visit or

Women coming out of homelessness find hope as artisans

When Nicole left an abusive situation, she knew it was best for her children. She had endured abuse, but never knew her children were suffering until one night her daughter said, “Mama… when you’re not here, Daddy hits me.” Nichole and her children left immediately.

IMG_6412Where she ended up is changing her life. After finding shelter, she got a job as an artisan in the Glory Haus workshop called “Repurposed on Purpose”. The creative shop makes jewelry, fabric goods and other items for several customers and is launching new items for boutique sales.

Through a partnership with Glory Haus, a large distributor of inspirational gifts, décor and collegiate items, MUST’s Employment Services team worked to recruit women coming out of homelessness to work as artisans. Under the leadership of Sheila Lynch, the workshop is growing and taking on more projects, including leather jewelry, unique shirts and Christmas gifts.

“The most important thing MUST offers people is hope,” said Ike Reighard, president and CEO of MUST. “This creative workshop is a perfect fit because our mission is in line with Glory Haus and we are working together to provide hope to the hopeless. It’s so meaningful to see these women use their talents, skills, enthusiasm and creativity to make beautiful items that bless others. In the meantime, they are becoming financially stable.”

MUST serves about 30,000 people annually, 80 percent of whom are women and children.

Purchase handmade items on or donate to the Employment Services program at MUST Ministries at

MUST Ministries expands housing, food programs for families

Valentine’s Day announcement includes new housing units in Cobb County, increase in Save It Forward food allotments.

Thanks to a Valentine’s announcement, life will be sweeter this year for families in need as MUST Ministries makes significant strides in expanding programs. MUST’s efforts to meet the ever-growing demand for services to families experiencing poverty includes new housing opportunities and additional food distributed in schools.

motel programAccording to Exec. VP Chris Fields, barriers to stable housing can be significant, particularly for those with a disability. “For close to a decade, MUST has provided supportive housing to those who have a disability and are experiencing chronic homelessness.

“Today, we are announcing the opening of 10 additional apartment units in Cobb County to assist our neighbors in need. These new units will house both families and single adults whose head of household has a disabling condition and who have been chronically homeless. The expansion of the MUST program represents a 50 percent increase in our supportive housing program in Cobb.”

“We have more applications than beds, but approximately 24 people, including children, will have stable housing in the program expansion,” said VP of Programs Rachel Castillo.

This is the first time HUD has awarded a new supportive housing project for Cobb in nearly a decade, Fields stated. “MUST is very excited to expand our housing program and offer more stability for those in poverty. We are beginning to take applications now and plan to begin serving new households this month.”

The apartments in South Cobb are part of a two-year grant MUST hopes will be extended. The housing is on a bus line and also features walk-in closets and other amenities that raise the level of dignity and provide hope.

In addition to more supportive housing, families in the MUST Save It Forward (SIF) program will be receiving more food. MUST’s SIF program is a food pantry program in conjunction with Marietta and Cobb County Schools that allows students and their families to get 75 pounds of food and toiletries each month. The program not only provides much needed nutrition to children and their families, but also has been shown to improve learning and health for those children in this program.

“We are excited to announce the addition of five more pounds of food for each family between mid-February and the end of the school year,” said Fields. “Eliminating hunger in families is a strategic focus for MUST, so this increase is part of our continued effort to partner with our schools and community to serve hungry families.

MUST is now serving almost 2,000 people a month through the MUST SIF program. A counselor or social worker helps identify those children in greatest need, and MUST provides the food and toiletries using a couponing program with community shoppers.

The program has grown by 20 percent in terms of families served this year, said Paula Rigsby, Director of Children’s Programs at MUST. “We expect it to continue increasing. In addition to canned goods and toiletries, MUST works hard to provide frozen meat and fresh produce.

“We are so grateful and blessed by the support of our wonderful community and volunteers, coupon shoppers and donors and are honored to be able to increase the amount of food and toiletries provided to the families served by this program. Eliminating hunger allows school children to reduce absenteeism, while improving grades and social skill development.”

For more information on how to get involved in the MUST SIF program, email [email protected].

Atlanta radio personality pays it forward after falling on hard times

Ray Dyer’s dreams of finding a better opportunity in the entertainment industry brought him to Georgia, but shortly after he arrived it became apparent those dreams might die here.

When the former morning show co-host left a successful radio career in New York for a marketing agency in Marietta, the last thing he expected to find was joblessness.

Ray Dyer

“Big Ray” Dyer on the air at V-103.7

“I had my acceptance letter, my salary letter, everything,” he said, “but I got down here and couldn’t get in touch with anybody from the company.”

It wasn’t long before Dyer discovered his prospective employer had gone out of business. With his wife out of the workforce, Dyer’s family was left with no income.

“We spent a lot of our money just trying to make sure that the ends met and the walls didn’t cave in,” he said. But even with help from friends, the accounts soon dried up.

At the suggestion of a friend, Dyer’s wife sought help at MUST Ministries. The resources she received had become small luxuries for the Dyer family: a Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas gifts for their son, resume help and even a suit to wear to interviews. The help allowed her the freedom to finish her degree in network engineering.

Shortly afterward, Dyer landed a position in marketing for a local comedy club, and then his dream job as an on-air personality at V-103.7, an Atlanta CBS radio station affiliate.

“Everything picked up because of MUST,” he said. “If it wasn’t for MUST, I think we probably would have had to move back to New York, which was not an option.”

As a way of paying it forward, Dyer started Marion’s Heart, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing children with the resources they need to have a full childhood. He also spearheads an effort to collect clothing specifically for larger men, for whom thrift shopping can often be difficult, and the comedy club he manages conducts a yearly toy drive benefiting MUST’s Toy Shops. “I want to make sure that MUST isn’t going anywhere,” he said.

Dyer also works as a motivational speaker, assuring his listeners that hard times don’t last forever. He likes to remember a saying that has stuck with him: “A step back is a set up for a comeback.”

Do you want to Be Help to someone in need? 
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Connect with “Big Ray” on Facebook.

Woodstock City Church steps up to help less-fortunate neighbors

A partnership ought to take you beyond the realm of what either partner could do alone, according to Dr. Ike Reighard, Pres. and CEO of MUST Ministries. “And that’s just what happens when MUST partners with Woodstock City Church.

WCC partners“This congregation has figured out a path to true community transformation,” Reighard continued. “They’re making a tremendous impact in Cherokee County and beyond by partnering with charities who know what they’re doing, but need the funds and volunteers to enable the optimal outreach.”

“Why reinvent the wheel?” asks the senior pastor at WCC, Gavin Adams. “The charities like MUST that we choose to support are already doing amazing things to help others. Through our annual Be Rich Campaign, we help fund and support existing programs and their dreams for the future.

“We vet non-profit partners like MUST to ensure they are operating with the highest level of excellence. We love MUST, because they know how to evaluate situations and respond accordingly.,” Adams explained. “We’ve found our churches in the North Point Ministries network can be most effective by collecting resources and supporting nonprofits. It doesn’t make sense for us to compete with them by offering similar services. We always choose to partner rather than pioneer when it comes to serving the community.”

“What an amazing blessing it is to have a church tell us to dream big with them,” Reighard said. “Last year, MUST’s Summer Lunch program provided 251,424 sack lunches to children on the free and reduced lunch program who have little to nothing to eat during the summer. We helped children in seven counties, including Cherokee, thanks to a gift from Woodstock City Church.”

WCC volsIn addition, the church gave money to reduce the food insecurity among students by supporting MUST’s school food pantry program, now in 24 schools. Hunger affects social behavior, grades, health, relationships and virtually every aspect of a child’s life, so MUST’s Save It Forward program uses couponing to help feed 330 families a month, including public schools and Kennesaw State University students in need who have children in the home.

A part of the grant money is designated to helping Cherokee residents with rent and utility assistance through MUST’s housing program. Providing housing stability by preventing homelessness in Cherokee is a MUST goal.

The charity receives more than 150 requests a month with little money to meet those tremendous needs. The nonprofit has been able to assist only 10 percent of the requests and the needs are continuing to grow. This funding will enable MUST to serve more than fifty percent of those requesting assistance, or five times the number previously served, a critical effort in preventing homelessness.

The Be Rich campaign actually extends through the year with numerous volunteer projects planned and scheduled. Woodstock City Church members have worked in partnership with MUST at the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen, Donation Center, Save It Forward Warehouse, MUST Marketplace thrift shop, MUST Toy Shops and the Cherokee Thanksgiving boxes project.

Additionally, a large food drive on Jan. 22 is expected to reap two truckloads of food for MUST’s 27 food pantries. “It’s a generosity that demonstrates their love for serving the Lord and serving others,” Reighard pointed out. The church has done these things in the past year, but have also connected with many other projects in the past.

“Those of us who work day in and day out to serve the poor are so encouraged when an organization comes along side of us and offers financial support and time. It blesses the clients, but it blesses the MUST team too. We know Woodstock City Church is ‘all in’. They’re with us. They care and they take action,” he said.

“Woodstock City Church is a servant leader in that they have set a path to make a difference in a unique way. They find out what God is already doing, then get in the middle of it. That’s a strategy that will radically change a community.”

– Kaye Cagle

Beat the winter brain drain!

When January comes around, people are still hungry, still cold, still jobless, still homeless. Yet as a society, we’re spent. We’ve been giving and thoughtful and helpful and hospitable until we’ve about had enough. December did us in. We hosted friends and family, we gave gifts, we cooked, we shopped, we traveled, we watched football … and now we don’t want to do anything.

We just want to get through January. It’s cold and blustery and not very interesting. There are few exciting activities. Big events are “on hold” as we wait for better weather.

brain drain blog 170106So what do we do? Fight it. Decide you’re going to be different this year. You’re going to help others in January — and maybe even February and March. You’re going to pursue giving in the “off season” and set an example for your kids, your neighbors, your church and anyone else who notices it’s not December and you’re still giving.

What can you do? Here is a short list of ways to help:

1. Put together a group of friends and volunteer to cook and serve a meal at the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen. Email [email protected] for available dates.

2. Gather friends and family and go sort food and clothing at the Donation Center. MUST receives a lot at Christmas and we need help getting it all organized. Email [email protected] and ask when help is needed most.

3. Give money. Yep – it doesn’t flow into charities in January the way it does in December, but there are still the same number of needs. You can make a big difference by giving now.

4. Collect items needed most, like new underwear and socks in every kind and size. When you help 30,000 a year, there is never enough underwear and socks. We also need undershirts, bras, long-johns, large diapers, pullups and camis. Take them to the Donation Center at 55 Chastain Road, Suite 110, Kennesaw.

5. Our 24 school food pantries are running low on cereal, canned or boxed potatoes, boxed pasta and boxed rice. Our other food pantries need canned meat, spaghetti sauce with meat, boxed dinners with canned meat, oil, sugar, juice and condiments. Take them to the MUST – Save It Forward warehouse at 1395 S. Marietta Parkway, Building 900, Suite 904; Marietta.

6. Pray. More than anything, MUST wants to be in the center of God’s will, helping those in need and doing what He calls us to do — to love our neighbors as ourselves. Pray for God to guide and provide. And keep praying. God seems to be making a way for some big changes in 2017, new ways to help and extend our reach to those in need.

So if January feels bleak, move forward and so something heart-warming. Don’t let the past hectic pace keep you from serving. Dive into winter in a new way.

When you’re huddled up by the fire, think of those by a fire in the woods. When you turn the heat on in your car, think of those who have to walk in the cold. When you put on your warm coat, think of those who have no coat. When you eat a hot meal, remember those who have no food. You’ll be motivated to do something. And it will make a difference in their lives … and yours.

Do you want to Be Help to someone in need? 
Do you want to Give Help?

Time found me

Julie Broshar

Julie Broshar

How often have you thought about all of the things you would do, if only you could “find the time”? Maybe it’s the time needed to do something as mundane as organizing your closet, or as ambitious as training for a marathon. Or it could be the time needed for you to do something more important – not just for yourself, but for others. Something that could start small and grow into a passion.

That’s the spot I found myself in for many years. With a family and an often-demanding career, I struggled to find the time to attend to other areas of my life. And one of those areas that I neglected was giving back. Sure, we would donate to charities, and a few times a year I’d participate in corporate or church-led volunteer events, but I always left those events wishing I could do more.

“If only I could find the time.”

Then something unexpected happened: Time found me!

My corporate job was eliminated (yikes!), but in the experience of searching for a new job I saw an opportunity. Finally, I had the time to volunteer at MUST Ministries on a regular basis. And what a blessing my experience volunteering at MUST has been!

I was warmly welcomed into the volunteer program and quickly saw first-hand how our efforts (big and small) help to serve those less fortunate in our community. Whether it’s assisting with the annual Gobble Jog (MUST’s largest fundraiser) or seeking donations of socks during a time of need, at the end of the day it’s about offering hope to our neighbors in need.

Now I am starting a new job and will no doubt find myself short on time again. But as I leave my weekly volunteer day behind, I won’t forget the way I felt when I had the time to give back at MUST.

And I won’t wait for time to find me again before I return to volunteer.

Will you help sustain our anti-poverty programs in 2017?

MUST 161228Almost 30,000 people struggling in poverty turned to MUST Ministries for help and hope in 2016. About 80 percent of those served were women and children, according to MUST President and CEO Ike Reighard.

“Most people have some misperceptions about those living in poverty,” Reighard said. “More than two-thirds of those served by MUST are younger than age 18.”

As MUST faces 2017, it needs significant community financial support to sustain the food, housing and jobs programs that pull people out of instability. MUST’s ratio of administrative costs to program costs is among the best in the country, and Charity Navigator ranks it at its highest 4-star rating in financial performance. MUST also was ranked a top-100 nonprofit in Georgia by Atlanta Business Chronicle.

“When you give to MUST Ministries, you are helping thousands of children—like I was—have a future,” said Schneyder Destine, CEO of Bexiam and a former MUST client. “You are giving us a hand up, not a hand out. You are making a way for us when we see no other way.”

Supported by almost 10,000 volunteers, MUST offers food, housing, employment services and clothing to individuals and families living in poverty and homelessness. The organization’s services include three food pantries that distribute more than 213,000 pounds of groceries each year, an employment services program that put 468 people back to work last year, and clothing closets that distributed more than 338,000 articles of clothing.

MUST also provides Cobb County’s only walk-up emergency shelter, which is currently forced to turn away an average of 225 women and children seeking shelter each month due to lack of space.

To learn more or to donate now, go to