As the year draws to a close …


One of your neighbors wrote me recently to say thanks for the difference you have made in his life, and I wanted you to see the note:

MUST Ministries has helped this old vet so much.
This was one of my darkest days but you have given me hope.

Because of your generosity with MUST, your neighbors in need have a safe place to stay during their crisis of homelessness. They have groceries, clothing for their children, and job training to get them back on their feet.

Your gift to MUST Ministries changes lives. As the year draws to a close, and you consider year-end donations, we hope you’ll give generously to MUST Ministries.

With gratitude,

Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard
President and CEO
MUST Ministries

P.S.: Please remember to make your year-end donation by Dec. 31, so it can be deposited before 2016 is over. On behalf of thousands of your neighbors in need, thank you for remembering to help.

MUST receives highest rating from Charity Navigator

MUST Ministries is again the honored recipient of a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the watchdog organization’s highest distinction for dependability and excellence.

Charity Navigator logo blue

Charity Navigator is the nation’s largest and most-utilized charity evaluator, rating charities on a one-to-four scale based on their financial health, accountability and transparency.

According to Michael Thatcher, President and CEO of Charity Navigator, only a quarter of rated charities have achieved the four-star distinction.

“This is our highest possible rating and indicates that MUST adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way,” Thatcher wrote in a letter to MUST. “Attaining a 4-star rating verifies that MUST Ministries exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work.”

According to MUST’s latest financial reports, the organization spends 85 cents of every dollar on its program services providing those in need with food, housing, employment services and clothing. The remaining 15 cents goes toward a combination of development and administrative expenses.

“Donors want to know which charities to trust. This distinction demonstrates that MUST is among America’s most fiscally stable and efficient,” said MUST President and CEO Ike Reighard. “We take our stewardship role very seriously and are blessed to have served 30,000 people in need in the last year.” Eighty percent of MUST’s clients are women and children, he stated.

For more information about MUST’s dedication to ethics and transparency, visit, or visit MUST’s Charity Navigator page at

MUST hotel-motel program adds bed capacity for homeless

The number of people struggling in homelessness locally is far greater than one facility can accommodate, and MUST Ministries is the only walk-up shelter in the area. To help overcome some of the bed shortage, MUST is launching an emergency motel lodging program addressing the challenge of families living in homelessness.

“In the past year, MUST has provided 67,416 safe nights of rest through our housing programs, including 829 people served in the Elizabeth Inn Shelter,” said Rachel Castillo, Vice President of Program Services. The 72-bed shelter accommodates two-parent families, single parents with children and single women and men. “You can imagine how difficult it is for larger families to find shelter if they require multiple beds,” Castillo stated. “Our family area stays at capacity.”

“Most people in our community are unaware of the tremendous need for both affordable housing and emergency housing.” — Rachel Castillo

Three motel programs at MUST are helping to ease some of the demand. In Cherokee County, families come to MUST’s Canton location for case management and employment services. They must pursue employment while using a hotel-motel voucher for a 30-day stay. The program targets the homeless in Cherokee and operates on a limited grant.

In Cobb, MUST has two motel programs available. The first houses families for two-day, weekend stays prior to meeting with case managers. Two motel rooms have been allocated for this purpose. The second option, an agreement with My Brother’s Keeper of St. Ann’s Catholic Church and St. Vincent de Paul of Transfiguration Catholic Church, offers multiple hotel rooms near MUST for up to a one week stay. This program also includes case management and three meals a day at MUST. Some meals can even be taken “to go” if the family wishes to return to their room.

“We are so encouraged by these housing options now available to families who are desperate to find help,” Castillo said. “Most people in our community are unaware of the tremendous need for both affordable housing and emergency housing,” she continued. “MUST is making progress in providing for more families, but we need further support.”

She said most hotel nights cost more than people think and that’s one reason their quantity is so limited. “The budget motels in the area can cost a family several hundred dollars a week and they simply do not have that much money when they’re trying to buy food, diapers, gas, shoes and other necessities.”

Anyone interested in supporting the housing program is encouraged to go to MUST’s web site or Facebook page and donate online.

MUST is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to helping people in poverty in eight counties of Metro-Atlanta. Last year, 34,000 people—including 22,000 children—turned to MUST for help and hope.

Gobble Jog benefits thousands of clients in need

little GJ runnerA perfect fall day played host to 9,500 runners and walkers raising money for their neighbors in need. More than $550,000 in corporate sponsorships, race fees and participant fundraising will help 30,000 people in poverty with groceries, housing, emergency shelter, hot meals, employment services, Summer Lunches, Toy Shop gifts and clothing.

The festive event featured costumes, music, a VIP area sponsored by Northwestern Mutual, photo booth, FISH radio personalities Kevin and Taylor and more.

“What a great morning to show our gratitude,” said Pres. and CEO Ike Reighard. “When thousands of people gather on Thanksgiving Day to help others, it’s one of the most meaningful events in the country.”

Check out our Gobble Jog photo album on Flickr!

Georgia Gives Day reaps record $30,444 for MUST

GGD smThanks to an amazing outpouring of support from MUST friends and family, the Nov. 17 statewide online giving day was a big success, exceeding the stretch goal of $25,000.

In addition to individual donations, MUST won several “power hour” contests with grant money for the most donors and added $4,000 to the total.

“Our supporters are changing lives,” said Ike Reighard, Pres. and CEO. “They know when they give to MUST that 85 cents on a dollar goes directly to programming. MUST is one of the most fiscally stable charities in the country and we are grateful to serve those in need.”

Employment expands with new team

Much of the poverty issue is related to a lack of employment opportunities and job training. MUST is devoted to helping people who are unemployed and underemployed find long-term solutions.

The Employment Specialists at MUST include Jeff Edwards (director), LaCreisha Griffin (Smyrna), Nate Marsh (Marietta/Canton) and Herb Sierra (Elizabeth Inn campus).

This team helps clients build resumes, identify skills, practice interview skills and conduct online job searches.


From left: Jeff Edwards, LaCreisha Griffin, Nate Marsh and Herb Sierra.

The Widow’s Mite

At times, we receive questions about the clients we serve and occasionally assumptions are made … sometimes negative assumptions. If they truly knew our clients, they would realize many face mental health, physical health and life circumstance challenges we cannot imagine and would be hard-pressed to survive. Unfortunately, some clients are their own worst enemies, who through their attitudes or their choices have put themselves in hard places. Regardless of the challenges, we are called to serve them with respect, compassion and dignity.

Yesterday, something happened that typifies the great majority of those who seek our assistance. I went out to check our mailbox at the street and found a letter. It was a small envelope with a handwritten address and return address. I did not recognize the name, but recognized the address as a housing unit from the Canton Housing Authority. When I opened the envelope, there was no letter or note, but simply a folded dollar bill. When we checked our database, we discovered she was a MUST client who had last received services several years ago. I realized that she had offered a donation of what she could to say thanks for the meaningful services she received.

I was reminded of two things. First, the story of the widow’s mite from the Bible, where Jesus commented that the widow had given more than any other person because she had given all that she had. Second, I was reminded that the overwhelming majority of our clients are people just like me who have had some type of setback that puts them in need. It has taken every ounce of courage they have to come in and ask for help, braving embarrassment, shame, guilt and possible judgement. “I’ve never had to do this before,” they say. Our job is to give them acceptance, hope and the assurance that although we have all been in a position to give before, and that feels good, we all will someday have to ask for help. Our prayer is that we can help them through this setback to bring them back to the place where they can give again.

In this person’s case, our prayer was answered. We have clients who come in because they are in need of food, but will donate clothes that someone has outgrown. We witness countless acts of appreciation and kindness from our clients. I was touched by the simple generosity of this client’s dollar bill and reminded that the image of God is in each of our clients (and staff, donors and volunteers!). Some may reflect it more brightly than others, but we are all His workmanship.

FedEx Ramp Manager Shares Her Journey from Homelessness to Hope

On any given night, more than 500,000 Americans find themselves homeless. Many people take for granted having enough to eat, a place to stay and adequate clothing to wear. It isn’t until you are without these things that you can begin to understand the pain that comes with it.

Ametruis Knox, a FedEx Express ramp manager who has been with the company for nearly 20 years, can relate to the hardships of homelessness. She was once homeless growing up in Philadelphia.

“A lot of people believe that homelessness is always associated with those who have substance abuse problems or are lazy and don’t want to work,” said Knox. “That’s actually very far from the truth. A lot us are really just one paycheck away from being homeless. There are a lot of different circumstances involved. It could be health related, and they couldn’t afford the cost of healthcare. It could be their house burned down. There are so many reasons out there.”

As a child, Knox and her mother found themselves homeless and hungry when Knox’s father lost his job. They stayed at a women and children’s shelter and got their meals from local churches whenever they could. A little over a month later, Knox and her family moved into an abandoned home with no running water, no heat and no functioning bathroom. Knox recalls getting water from a leaking fire hydrant down the street. They had to use the stove to heat what little water they had to keep themselves clean.

“I really wasn’t sure if things would get better,” Knox said. “I didn’t think it could get any worse. I experienced a lot of anger, anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand why we had to be homeless. I knew my father had lost his job, but I never thought we would be put out of the place we lived.”

It is always darkest before the dawn

Life knocked her down, but it didn’t keep Knox from getting back up. Determined to achieve success, she ran track in high school and earned a college scholarship. After one year of college, Knox  sacrificed her scholarship and returned home to take care of her mother who suffered from multiple sclerosis.

A few years later, Knox answered a newspaper ad for a customer service rep and was hired at a FedEx call center in Pennsylvania in 1997. She eventually made her way to Las Vegas and into a management training program with FedEx that would lead to a role as a ramp manager in Atlanta, a position she holds today. Knox is in charge of ramp agents, dangerous goods and material handlers.

“I never thought in a million years I would be here,” Knox said. “There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and it was a very long road. Someone believed in me along the way. That’s what I try to instill in my employees, to not give up and to keep going no matter what.”

Knox wasn’t always comfortable talking about her past. She felt shame for a long time and tried to forget that part of her life. Many years later, a FedEx co-worker unknowingly would help Knox face her past and use it for good.

“During our FedEx Cares campaign, a peer of mine approached me to help with Project Overcoat, a program designed to collect and distribute blankets and coats for the homeless,” Knox said. “I was somewhat reluctant at first, not sure if I wanted to open those old wounds, recall memories of my past and be involved with something that hit so close to home.”

After some hesitation, Knox agreed to participate. Her involvement led her to a women and children’s shelter where some of the coats that had been collected through the program were distributed to the homeless. While there, she saw something that caught her eye and touched a part of her past that she once tried to forget.

“I looked and saw a mother and child, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Knox said. “It was like seeing myself back in time. At that moment, I knew I had to speak up and not be ashamed any longer.”

A woman who at one time did not even want to think about her past would go on to serve as a spokesperson for Project Overcoat on TV in front of thousands of people. Knox appeared on the local FOX affiliate and told her story to encourage the people of Atlanta to donate coats and blankets. It also led her to speak at other homeless shelters and organizations, like MUST Ministries, about her experience.

“FedEx helped me find my way and provided the opportunity to take care of myself and serve others who face what I faced as a child. If my story can help someone else, then I have lived my purpose.”

By Tim Miller

June 6, 2016


Original link:


Have you volunteered?

Have you ever wanted to change your routine? Are you about to retire? Have you ever asked yourself, what is next? Where do I go from here? Well, if you have ever volunteered, you know it is a rewarding experience. It is good knowing you are helping others. Many feel this way about volunteering with any organization. When you volunteer with MUST, you get more than just a good feeling. You will meet new people make long-term connections, offer aid to your fellow man in order to better their lives.

Putting your skills to use where they are most needed is meaningful, knowing that you are a partner in changing lives. At MUST, the clients are held accountable to do their part in improving their situations. Having had the pleasure of volunteering over the last year with MUST, I have been humbled at the extraordinary work everyone does to build a better community.

Let me explain why MUST has been great to me. I recently relocated to Georgia with a vague idea of what was next for me. I felt like I hadn’t contributed to the world even a fraction of my blessings. I was fortunate to be introduced to the great people at MUST Ministries and the awesome work they do for their neighbors. They offer housing, employment services, food, clothing and much more to people in need.

I have seen how fortuitous life can be (e.g. people can lose their homes, not make enough to feed their families, etc.) and I thank God for my own blessings every day. Many, by no fault of their own, do not land on their feet, or have the necessary support to change their situations alone. People become more than just a number on an application when you see them every day in your neighborhood. Just think your neighbor just may be someone in need. In my opinion, this makes MUST Ministries an invaluable resource to their community. As a volunteer, they have allowed me to use my skills and knowledge to help others less fortunate.

I think at some point in life, people feel lost without a compass, map or GPS to guide them on their journey. For some, they are lost in a sea of hopelessness and endless uncertainty. It is wonderful to know that MUST Ministries’ team of volunteers and staff can be a beacon of light during those dark times. Volunteering my time has been very fulfilling for me. I am proud to be one of the ten thousand volunteers at MUST Ministries. Utilizing your unique gift to do good for others is, to me, a MUST. The only question becomes… have you volunteered?

Shanna-Kaè Mallett

Finding their way home


Omar Edwards sits outside his apartment in Marietta. MUST Ministries provides housing for 73 disabled individuals previously living in homelessness in Cobb and Cherokee Counties.

Homeless neighbors find shelter in MUST Permanent Supportive Housing

Once his shift at Wal-Mart wound to an end, Omar Edwards had nowhere to go. No one he worked with knew that the employee with the boisterous laugh, who arrived to work an hour early, had no home to return to — except two pieces of luggage and a blanket he fashioned into a tent.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs 2015 Report on Homelessness estimates that on a single night in January, 756 individuals living in Cobb and Cherokee Counties were homeless. Edwards no longer includes himself in that number. Today, he is one of 73 people receiving stable housing from MUST Ministries’ Permanent Supportive Housing Programs.

The long-term programs house homeless individuals whose physical or mental disabilities or substance abuse disorders make it difficult for them to obtain self-sufficiency. The ultimate goal of the program, according to Rhonda Hall, Program Director, is to connect clients with the resources they need to gain stability and eventually return to independent living.

“Supportive Housing provides a safe, stable place for individuals who desire to better their lives,” she said. Today, Edwards is involved in a church program educating people about the realities of homelessness and working towards financial self-sufficiency.

Clients are provided with fully-furnished, two bedroom apartments with utilities included, as well as toiletries, household items, food support when needed, and access to supportive services. Case managers work with clients to determine personal education, employment and health goals to connect them to the resources needed to achieve those goals. Resources can include anything from obtaining food stamps or social security benefits, to physical and mental health treatment, dental services, employment services, GED classes and recovery meetings.

Homeless families need help

Clients come from any number of circumstances. Before his search brought him to MUST, Herb Schwalbe took shelter wherever he could find it: here a tent in the woods, there a friend’s home, and even a few nights in a hospital waiting room. “If it wasn’t for this, I don’t know where I’d be,” he said.

Although many clients, like Schwalbe, are single individuals, families also make up a portion of the program’s client base. One of these families, a mother named Michelle Smith and her 15-year-old son, were admitted to the program in 2013 after Smith’s substance abuse inhibited the two from finding housing anywhere but in the most unlivable of conditions.

“We were living in a trailer that was basically condemned, and we were living there with three other people.” Smith remembered. “We wanted a change but had no resources.”

Since entering the program, Smith said she has remained sober and found employment as a supervisor at a greenhouse in the area. A housing voucher granted her by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will soon enable her and her son to find their own housing and live independently.

A place for veterans

Veterans also make up a significant portion of the program. The 10-apartment Veterans’ Supportive Housing Program in Cobb County serves 16 honorably or generally discharged veterans. The United Way of Greater Atlanta indicates that veterans constitute 21 percent of all homeless individuals living in Atlanta.

“People look at them like they’re a threat,” said case manager Michael Boyd. “These people are good. They’ve served our country. They took bullets. They’ve suffered from depression. They’ve had to go through a lot of things that you and I will probably never go through.”

Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety are all common mental illnesses reported by clients of both the veteran and non-veteran programs. Because of this, case managers place a great emphasis on self-esteem, positive affirmation and community. Clients gather together in weekly community meetings to share news, exchange helpful information and celebrate birthdays and advances made towards self-sufficiency.

“Every person in the program is loved and accepted for who they are,” said Rachel Castillo, Vice President of Program Services at MUST, “so it really does become like a great big extended family.”

Between the two campuses, MUST Permanent Supportive Housing has sheltered 115 people in the past year. According to Hall, 99 percent of these did not choose to live in homelessness, but none of the residents lets this deter them from choosing their future. Schwalbe said his dream is to eventually move out and have a home together with Smith, his girlfriend. Her dreams are equally bright.

“My outlook on everything has changed,” she said. “I have all the options in the world now.”

How to help: Give to the housing program or sign up to volunteer at