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Publix donates $51,000 to MUST’s community services

More than $51,000 is making its way to families in need, thanks to a donation by Publix Super Markets and the Food For All Campaign. Publix representatives presented MUST Ministries with a $26,413.73 check for MUST’s work in Cherokee County (photo) and another check for $25,000 for work in Cobb County.

Publix 51k 170628Publix Super Markets raised a total of $1.4 million in its Food For All Campaign in December 2016, which allowed Publix customers and associates to purchase $1, $3 or $5 donation coupons during checkout. Those proceeds were distributed to 60 nonprofit organizations in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Brenda Reid, Publix media and community relations manager said, “Thanks to the generosity of our customers and the enthusiasm of our associates the campaign is helping to make a difference in the lives of so many in the communities we serve.”

With 1,145 stores in six states, Publix has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” for 20 consecutive years. The Food For All campaign focuses on the fight against hunger.

You can join Publix and make a difference for your neighbors in need by clicking here to donate.

‘To have someone who actually cares …’

Ayesha Barker blog 170628Ayesha Barker and her family moved to Atlanta in search of a better life. A relative took them in while they looked for jobs, but the relative suddenly had to move – and Ayesha’s family found themselves sleeping in their car.

Providence led them to MUST Ministries, where they found emergency shelter at the Elizabeth Inn. MUST’s Employment Services staff helped Ayesha’s fiancé find a factory job, and the family was able to get an apartment of their own. Before long, Ayesha also found a job.

Now she looks or every opportunity to give back. Her co-workers in a Home Depot call center collect food and pack bags for MUST’s Summer Lunch program, which provides a nutritious lunch every weekday during summer school break for more than 6,000 children – including Ayesha’s own son. She also has launched a youth program in her neighborhood to teach life skills to girls ages 10-18 because she knows how much difference it makes to know someone cares about you.

“Behind closed doors, there’s a lot of things you struggle with,” she says. “To have someone who actually cares what goes on, that’s really important.”

You can make a life-changing difference for families like Ayesha’s by making a donation or volunteering your time.

‘I just wanted to take care of myself’

Desmond WestDesmond West had always pulled his own weight. Tall and barrel-chested, the burly North Carolina native drove a truck and ran his own carpet cleaning business.

But shortly after moving to Atlanta in 2008, Desmond’s strength began failing him. It started taking him a long time to finish jobs. His vision was getting blurry and the quality of his work decreased. He began losing contracting jobs and had to start living out of his van. Then his vision dramatically worsened and Desmond knew he had to get help.

That’s when he found MUST Ministries. A bed was available at the Elizabeth Inn Shelter and MUST got him to a doctor who diagnosed his out-of-control diabetes and prescribed medication.

Yet Desmond needed something else. Because of his vision loss, he couldn’t go back to the work he knew, but he didn’t want to live on disability the rest of his life either.

An employment specialist at MUST helped him find a way forward.

“She discovered me,” Desmond says. “Whenever she saw me, she wanted to know how I was doing. She was always steering me in the right direction.”

The employment specialist helped Desmond get into MUST’s Permanent Supportive Housing, so he had a place to call his own. When he finished a training program for the visually impaired, he found a job in Atlanta and was able to move once again into his own apartment.

“It was all too good to be true,” Desmond recalls. “I was preparing for the worst. Living in a shelter was going to be my life. I just wanted to take care of myself. I wanted my independence back. I can’t envision where I would be if MUST wasn’t there in my time of need.

“We need organizations like MUST,” Desmond adds. “There are some of us out there who really want to make a change for the better. Circumstances have gotten us down and we just need a little bit of a helping hand, a little guidance to get us back on our feet.

“To all the people and organizations that support MUST, I say thank you. I’m a product of the seed you planted.”

You can change a life! Just donate today or sign up to volunteer in Employment Services at

HomeAid Atlanta plans work days at MUST Ministries’ homeless campus

The Elizabeth Inn Shelter at MUST Ministries is the newly selected charity to receive expert help from volunteer professionals in the building field. Thanks to the generosity of HomeAid Atlanta, who works in partnership with the building industry, qualified volunteers will tackle numerous projects on the campus next month, providing a significant gift to the non-profit.

HomeAid will partner with Community Associations Institute of Georgia (CAI) to complete the work at MUST.

“To have professionals come to MUST and offer their services and supplies is a tremendous blessing,” said Dr. Ike Reighard, President and CEO of MUST. “HomeAid Atlanta will complete many projects that need to be done to improve the homeless campus and they will do them well. What a blessing to our clients.”

Last year alone, the Elizabeth Inn campus housed 874 people in the shelter and provided 85,974 meals in the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen. In addition, the cold weather shelter, the warming center, employment services and outreach to the homeless are located on this campus, one of 13 locations operated by MUST that serve 30,000 people a year.

“We hear quite a bit about MUST Ministries,” said Jean Hilyard, Director of Engagement at HomeAid Atlanta. “They have a good reputation and we wanted to connect,” she said. “We have the same goals – to help the homeless – so we will be on their campus May 12 and 19 for our Care Day effort.”

The group will be doing pressure washing and other prep work first, followed by building a 12’ custom shelving unit for the Employment Services Classroom on the homeless campus. Also on the task list are painting, a handicapped ramp rebuild, sprucing up decks and ramps on every building and a bathroom upgrade. CAI and partners are also installing a large, interactive children’s artwork areaon the concrete near the children’s playground.

One of the biggest tasks is fixing the large parking lot pavement. From painting doors to replacing old facia boards, the team will tackle an extensive “To Do List”. About 580 CAI of Georgia volunteers are expected to help and will also serve lunch at the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen on campus.

“It’s quite an undertaking, but it’s so nice to work with an outreach like MUST that serves so many types of people,” Hilyard said. MUST helps about 30,000 people a year and 80 percent of them are women and children. Most of the clients live in Cherokee and Cobb.

HomeAid, organized in 2001, works in partnership with the building industry, as well as community building organizations, to assist people experiencing homelessness, so it’s a perfect fit with MUST Ministries, Dr. Reighard said. “We are so grateful.”

Hilyard explained it this way, “We want to help people who help so many. And MUST does that well.”

MUST takes leadership role in homeless housing challenge

shelter challengeFollowing the “Shelter Challenge,” a statewide initiative to place as many homeless families and individuals as possible in permanent housing, MUST Ministries is taking an ambitious approach. “We plan to house 90 people in 90 days,” said Program VP Rachel Castillo.

MUST is part of a 19-organization collaborative learning initiative led by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The group anticipates promising results as they focus on making shelters more accessible and helping those clients quickly obtain stable housing. The target dates for the challenge are March 15 – June 12.

“For 46 years, MUST has focused on helping our neighbors in poverty. Our vast experience has taught us the significant value of stable housing. Last year, we provided 78,486 safe nights of rest to those in need. Through our Elizabeth Inn Shelter, Permanent Supportive Housing, Veteran’s Housing, Tenant Based Rental Assistance and other programs, MUST is already helping 1,222 a year,” Castillo explained.

But with the current crisis in housing, more must be done, she said. 53,000 people in Georgia are homeless, according to Castillo. That’s why MUST is teaming up with affordable apartment complexes, private landlords and community partners so more people can get a second chance. The largest poverty-focused charity in the area, MUST is working every day to place guests from the 72-bed facility.

Of the almost 30,000 served by MUST annually, 1,500 are living in homelessness and thousands more are in acute financial distress, she said. “Many have been living below the poverty level for years and are on the verge of homelessness.

“Based on the media gross income for households and median rent in Cobb County from the U.S. Census Bureau, 47.73 percent of households who rent in Cobb are overburdened by rent costs. Many of the affordable housing complexes in Cobb have closed and addressing the affordable housing challenge has become critical,” Castillo continued.

“Forty percent of our clients are women and children,” Maurice Speaks, Elizabeth Inn Shelter manager, said, “so we have to work hard to find family housing that’s safe and affordable. Our area is very limited in that capacity, but we have recently negotiated to provide 10 more apartments for the disabled who have been chronically homeless and three of those will be for families.”

In a unique approach, MUST is asking community members to help provide home supplies for these clients. Clients who have little to nothing need linens, toiletries, cleaning kits and microwaves. Anyone who wants to help can drop these items off at the MUST Donation Center at 55 Chastain Road, Suite 110, Kennesaw, and mark them “90 in 90” so they can be given to families who finally have a home.

“If everyone works together, we can identify appropriate housing options and help people get started on their paths to stability, Castillo said, “The whole community can get behind this initiative to end homelessness in our area. This effort will change so many lives.

“We work at it every day, but this emphasis on housing will raise awareness and call people together to network in new ways. MUST wants to help as many people as possible and we look forward to the community support for what we hope to accomplish,” Castillo said. “We can all make our community better.”

Want to  help?

Our Amazon Wish List is full of items needed to re-establish a household.
Your generous donation will make a real difference.

Tanya Hurt: ‘I’m not going to give up the fight’

Tanya HurtAfter the deaths of three family members, Tanya Hurt was trapped in the throes of depression.

She felt the Lord leading her to leave her hometown of Cincinnati and seek change. With no idea where they might end up, she and her husband loaded the youngest four of their eight children into their car, packed everything they could fit into a U-Haul and began driving south.

“I got on my hands and knees and asked the Lord to guide me,” she said. “I didn’t know where I was going.”

Hurt’s long journey down I-75 ended in Atlanta, but she didn’t find the change she had been hoping for. Instead she found was more pain: Her family was now homeless.

The Hurt family bounced from hotel to hotel, but eventually their money ran out. With no support system and no resources, they were out of options. The family’s only hope of having a roof over their heads was to find a family shelter.

Their search for refuge brought them to the Elizabeth Inn at MUST Ministries, the only local shelter that might be able to house a family as large as hers.

When she arrived, though, intake was closed for the day. She was too late. It seemed her hopes were dashed.

When Tanya came back early the next day to try again, she learned a family had just left the program and space was available for her and all her children. Had she come earlier or later than she did, there likely would not have room.

Hurt remained at the Elizabeth Inn for several weeks, slowly regaining stability while receiving the mental and emotional support she sorely needed. She learned that a better life was not only within her reach, but she held it in her hands.

“The staff showed me that I’m not supposed to depend on anybody to get where I need to be,” she said. “I must put more effort into myself to get myself out of my current situation.”

Hurt said she has a multitude of people at MUST to thank for how far she’s come, and that even today, she thinks of MUST as a friend she was able to go to when she had no one else.

“When I go to MUST, my face is recognized and I know I’m not alone,” she said.

Today, the Hurt family is back on its feet, regaining self-sufficiency. Her husband is employed at a local bakery, her children are in the process of becoming enrolled in school and the family has a place to call home.

Although her life is still a struggle at times, Hurt knows it’s worth it.

“I’m not going to give up the fight.”

‘Making a way for us when we see no way’

Schnyeder Destine

Schnyeder Destine, a former MUST client who now is CEO of Bexiam, talks about the difference MUST supporters made in  his life:

“MUST invested love and hope into me and my family, and because of that we are able to give back to others who need hope. But it was a journey to get here and MUST was part of my story. MUST gave us food, furniture, toys and hope. They treated us with dignity and compassion.

“When you give to MUST Ministries, you are helping thousands of children – just like I was – have a future. You’re allowing us to grow up and make our dreams come true. You are giving us a hand up, not a hand out. You are making a way for us when we see no way.”

Many of your neighbors see no way out of their difficulties. When you give them help through MUST, you also are giving them hope!

MUST partners with KSU to help students feed their children

Many college students face financial challenges, but some struggle with homelessness or have children they are unable to feed.

KSU food pantrySo MUST Ministries is partnering with Kennesaw State University’s Center for Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment (CARE) to provide food and toiletries to students in poverty with children to feed.

The CARE Center offers support to students who are struggling with homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless, students experiencing food insecurity and those previously or currently in foster care. Among many other services, the center operates two on-campus food pantries.

According to CARE Center director Marcy Stidum, in some cases, these students have more than just themselves to support. If a student is a parent and living in poverty, MUST will supply groceries and toiletries to the family through the child-focused MUST Save It Forward (SIF) program.

“If we ever hope to break the cycle of poverty, we have to eliminate barriers and empower people to succeed,” according to the SIF Team.

“The MUST Save It Forward mission is to eliminate the barrier of hunger so students have a greater opportunity to succeed in school and life. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with KSU, allowing us to now serve students in all levels of education from elementary school all the way through college.”

How to help: A simple gift of $12 a month feeds a family through SIF. Just go to and donate online to help.

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