I am a MUST Shepherd: Carol Wisdom shares her story


How did you first get connected to MUST Ministries?

 I was an occasional volunteer through Mt. Bethal UMC in the 1980s and 1990s when I was a member there.  I never dreamed that in 2003 I would go to work for MUST full-time for nearly ten years.  Today, I serve on the Board of Directors.


How/Why does the MUST mission motivate you?

 My faith drives me to serve my neighbors in need.  I pray daily that God will open my eyes and heart to see where He is already at work so that I might join him in fulfilling His purpose.  MUST clients also motivate me to get involved.  I have heard and seen stories of faith in the midst of extreme struggle, perseverance and strength when life beats someone down, and hope when there appears to be none.  If you listen to clients, they will talk about how blessed they are just because MUST offers them the very basics of life.  It keeps me in check when I complain about trivial matters.


3)      Why do you donate to MUST monthly/regularly? 

I donate to MUST monthly because I see how lives are changed there every day.  I also know what good stewards MUST is with donors’ gifts.  After working there, I trust MUST and know that every designated gift and undesignated gift is honored and appreciated.

Although I don’t feel wealthy, by the world’s standard I have been richly blessed in my life.  I wanted to give more than I felt that I could write in a single check.  When I looked at what I wanted to give and divided by twelve (months), I thought, “Wow, that’s doable.”  I actually have it put on a credit card and pay it off every month.  I don’t even miss it.  It is a great way to give and it is something that MUST can count on every month.

 4)      Do you have a personal experience that tells your MUST story best? (running in Gobble jog, volunteering at shelter, etc.)

One day I was at the Elizabeth Inn and passed a resident and just said, “hey, how are you today?”  She said, ”Honey, I am so blessed.”  I thought “How can she be blessed when she has nothing.  She is living in a homeless shelter!”  So I asked, “What makes you feel so blessed today?”  She replied, ”Are you kidding?  I slept in a warm bed under a dry roof last night.  I have eaten three meals in the last three days.  Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had three meals in one day. Someone is going to help me find a job and create a plan for my FUTURE!  What more could I ask for.  Praise God!”  It made me reflect on my complaining to my husband the night before how I was driving a ten year old car and wanted to get a new one.  And, when could we afford to get a cleaning service to help me keep up at home?  Wow!  That MUST client ministered to me in a powerful way.  When someone asks me if we are witnessing to MUST clients who are living in darkness, I secretly smile.  If everyone would just listen, I think MUST clients can witness to those who have so much and take it for granted.  I think the people in my neighborhood need to hear my witness more than MUST clients.  Many clients depend on their faith to get them through each day.

5)      Is there something we haven’t asked you about your MUST Ministries experience that you’d like to share?

 There are so many miracles I have seen at MUST.  I could tell you about so many things I have witnessed.  Most importantly, though,   MUST is an ongoing story of provision.  To know that through the community’s response,

  • a ton of food is given to the needy each day,
  • that enough nice clothes are donated that MUST can operate the MUST MarketPlace,
  • that people are willing to donate time and finances to ensure that MUST can serve 34,000 people in need each year,restores my faith in the basic good in people.



MUST Moments: Celebrating the Ordinary

1385767_13100666By Carol C. Hunt

Celebration is the acceptance of life and the constantly increasing awareness of its preciousness. We can only really celebrate when we affirm our present condition. It is the recognition that something is there and needs to be made visible so that we can say “yes” to it. To be present to the moment is an affirmation of each other in many different ways we experience life.

When I enter with the children into their joy, I enter also with them into their unique understanding of value in the ordinary discovered completely by surprise.

In the ending days of our summer lunch program, two tanned barefoot boys ran to our van and eagerly exclaimed, “Yesterday my brother and I found two baby chicks running in the trailer park.” He continued, “We begged our mom to keep them.  She said only if we can find a big box. Our trailer is too small for animals to be running around. We remember that you brought big boxes to carry the lunches you deliver to the children and we told her we were very sure you’d let us have one for our chickens’ new home.”

Not only did we have big boxes, but also we had little ones and middle-sized ones. We had choices, wonderful choices! We consecrated the chickens’ new home and left with more respect for an ordinary cardboard box.

It is odd how these “little celebrations” of surprises and kindness can link us to the diversity of our ministry:

  • A mother finding a suit in our MUST-Wear Clothes Closet for her son to wear to the senior prom
  • Mental Health Consumers unloading donuts and bread in a joyful community effort
  • A guest in the Elizabeth Inn sharing with his case manager that he has been sober for 30 days, whereas he had never gone more than 14
  • The words overheard on a cold winter day in the soup kitchen, “This cornbread is almost as good as my grandmother’s.”
  • A single mother of three exclaiming to her delight, “Because I had childcare and support, I’ve stayed long enough at my job to get benefits! That’s never happened before.”
  • A family of five taking groceries from the food pantry and returning the next week, after the father got his paycheck at the end of the month, with a small box of food to say thank you

My days at MUST are made up of ordinary moments where life is fully celebrated with kindness and affirmed in truth.

As the winter days stretched into longer light, and I discovered the surprise of the early buds of spring resting in the limbs of the tree outside the MUST shelter, I remember in celebration the beautiful words of the Psalmist, “kindness and truth shall meet” (Psalm 85).

Carol Hunt is a Georgia native, retired school teacher and long-time staff member and current volunteer at MUST Ministries.  Carol has a passion for serving the poor and helped launch MUST Ministries’ Summer Lunch program.  She is also a devoted Associate Sister of Mercy. 

I am a MUST Shepherd: Rita Moore shares her story



Every month we will feature MUST Shepherds who  are helping serve your neighbors in need through their gifts of time, talent and treasure.


How did you get connected to MUST?

My first job at my church, First United Methodist Church, was to head up local missions.  The MUST board at the time had about three or four pastors and they needed someone with a background in pension planning.  I was it.  I became board secretary in 1995/96.

What is it about MUST that keeps you coming back?

My mom tells me I used to come home from school and feel bad about kids who didn’t have what I did, and we were your average middle class family.  I think I was just born with this giving spirit.  I’ve always wanted to give back.

I truly believe MUST has been a gift for me and has given me more than I have given it.  It has made me stretch.  Through my work on the board, I have matured both personally and professionally.  Everyone at MUST values what I do for them.  I feel like I can help make a difference and I’m seen as making a difference.  I think volunteering and giving go hand in hand.  It doesn’t just mean writing a check.

Why do you give monthly?

I believe I was recruited into the MUST monthly giving program at one of our many board meetings.  From the very beginning, it just made a lot of sense to me to participate.  I just assumed all board members were part of the monthly giving group.  Why wouldn’t you be?   Every time I serve at my church in Sunday school, or the dinners we serve at the community kitchen on the Elizabeth Inn campus, people are so appreciative of what we do.  It really is a privilege to do it.  That’s really what it’s all about; we don’t get these opportunities to have an impact in a life enough.

MUST Ministries saw a 31 percent increase in Summer Lunch distribution

MUST Ministries has been coordinating Summer  Lunches for children living in poverty for 18 years and MUST Ministries Summer Lunch checkers and packersthis year saw a 31 percent increase in the lunches as the final tally soared to a record-breaking 247,087!  Almost a quarter of a million sack lunches reached hungry children this summer thanks to an overwhelming effort by communities in eight counties.

“This is an amazing accomplishment for the Summer Lunch 2013 team,” according to Kelley Henderson, Vice President and Chief Programs Officer. “Not only did they meet the hunger needs of more than 6,000 children across eight counties, they worked together to our little neighbors in need. This monumental effort showcases MUST Ministries’ continued commitment to working with local community partners in service across North GA.

“A special thank you to our partners, volunteers, benefactors, sandwich makers, bag decorators, checkers and packers, drivers, PB&J mixers, cold cut stackers, and of course our outstanding team of staff,” Henderson said. With numerous groups and organizations involved in making this happen, the list is too long to innumerate, he said, “but we are grateful to churches, civic clubs, sports teams, scout troops, families, businesses and individuals who all pitched in to make this happen.

For Cherokee County, the number of summer lunches rose to 67,5489 from 51,338  for Cobb County, the number rose to 90,537 from 85,140 ;  Douglas County 24,947 from 15,976; Gwinnett 23,365 from 16,367; North Fulton 26,747 from 20,833; and we added Bartow  and Pickens Counties with 8,299 and 5,643 respectively.

Henderson estimated a 58 percent increase over the last four years as MUST Ministries has gone from serving Cobb and Cherokee Counties to reaching Bartow, Douglas, Gwinnett, North Fulton, Paulding and Pickens as well. “It’s remarkable what a community can do when they all work together on one cause. We are pleased to help lead this crusade to serve children in need in our area.”

MUST Ministries Summer Lunch children living in poverty



Why should you choose MUST Ministries as your charity?

MUST Ministries North Georgia non profitWhy should you choose MUST Ministries as your charity?

That’s a good question.  There are so many charities and nonprofits out there to choose from.  They all appear to do good deeds, have their heart in the right place, but how do you know which one will use your donation dollars the most effectively?  Here are just a few things to consider:

1)     How does your charity measure up?  Has it been rated by Charity Navigator or Standards for Excellence?  These are two independently rated sites that were created to help the public determine which nonprofits they can trust.  They review charities and document the financial health and transparency so you know where your dollars are being spent.   Don’t be fooled!  There are many sites that claim to do the same, but all a charity needs to do is become a paid member to get a good rating.

2)     Is your charity a 501(c)3?  The Internal Revenue Coded (26U.S.C. 501(c) ), provides that 28 types of nonprofit organizations are exempt from some federal income taxes, however, not all can receive donations.  A 501(c)3 identifies a public charity in the United States by the IRS.  In short, this allows your donation to be tax deductable.  Just because they say they are a 501(c)3 charity, doesn’t mean they are.  Be sure to do your homework to confirm their 501(c)3 status.

3)     Is your charity using a middleman to collect donations?  Did you know when you get calls for donations, many times a third party company is used and a percentage of the amount donated goes to that company?  Make your donations directly to your charity by donating online or mailing your check.

4)     Are you spread too thin?  While diversifying your portfolio when investing in stocks is a good thing, you want to do the opposite with your philanthropic giving.  Once you decide which cause you are passionate about, and find a worthy charity, concentrate your giving so it will make a bigger impact.

I have to admit, before I started working for MUST Ministries, I did not research my charity donations.  I would make donations to just about anyone who asked (if I had the money).  Because MUST has been awarded Charity Navigator’s 4 star rating 5 years running and is one of only 230 organizations in America to receive the Standards for Excellence award, I’m proud to say I work for MUST because I know my donations are used wisely.  How does your charity measure up?

Couponing a new way of helping

extremecouponTwo volunteers at Smyrna Program Services at MUST Ministries are creatively helping to feed those in need. Deb Chamblee and Stacey Brown became friends through volunteering at MUST Ministries.  Their three year volunteer experience has not only forged a friendship but they have also become great couponing buddies. “We really wanted to help people, so we started comparing and collecting coupons”

Deb explains that the idea to expand their help to MUST Ministries through couponing “started when I was in my grocery store and the cashier offered me coupons for free Chef Boyardee products” she further explains “I told her I don’t eat those meals and didn’t need the free Chef Boyardee products”.  The cashier noted, ‘But don’t you volunteer at MUST?’ I walked out of there with 27 free cans of food and realized I could really help. Now people bring us coupons and we each commit to spend $5 per week. People are amazed at how much we bring in.”

Aside from volunteering, the two couponer spend time looking intently for useful items they can get for little or no cost. They buy deodorant, cereal, peanut butter and other staples in the MUST food pantry. In December, Deb even found coupons for a free transformer toy, went to the store and then took the toys to the MUST Toy Shop.

“Our husbands grew up in this area,” Stacey explained, “and we want to help our community”  The bonus is that aside from helping the community Deb and Stacey have managed to cut their own grocery bills in half and encourage others to do the same. It’s a win-win for everyone. They learned that it doesn’t take a lot of effort or much money to make a big impact in someone else’s life.

For more information on how to get involved at MUST Ministries, go to  The charity for those living in poverty helps 34,000 people in eight counties. Almost half of those clients are children.

Students Full of Compassion Make Empty Bowls

The students of A.L. Burruss Elementary hosted an “Empty Bowls” project to help MUST Ministries.  Martie Moore, the art teacher who is part of  the Special Area Interest Learning program (SAIL) wanted to do an Empty Bowls project for some time and thought this would be the perfect occasion to teach the students not only how to make bowls without using a potter’s wheel, but also to raise awareness and serve those in need.

The students who made the empty bowls researched charities at the local, national and international level.  Once they narrowed the search to two non-profits, they visited the MUST website where they watched the video recapping the last 40 years of MUST service to their neighbors in need.  Ms. Moore believes it was this video that was the deciding factor for the students to choose MUST as their charity to support.

The 14 students spanning grades 3 – 5 made 42 bowls for the fundraising event.  One child even saved his own money during the 6 week project so he could purchase one of the empty bowls for himself.   They sold 27 of the 42 empty bowls at  a school event raising, raising $135.

A big thanks goes out to those inspiring students for their efforts!

Cobb charity seeks food, financial donations

But Sharon’s story is not unique.


 A Cobb County charity has seen more and more needy families, but its food and monetary donations are drastically down.

Right now, MUST Ministries only has enough to feed the hungry for the next two weeks.

The Marietta charity’s food supply has dropped while the requests for assistance just keep on rising.  Read more…

MUST Helps ‘Step Up Your Game’ in the Job Hunt

‘Step Up Your Game’

Almost 50 people arrived at MUST Ministries on Sept. 13 to learn skills that will help them get a job. MUST hosted the “Step Up Your Game” event in conjunction with other non-profits in the area, including Nobis Works, Goodwill, Center for Family Resources and Cobb Works. The collaborative event was the second conference this group has coordinated.  Read more…

Christmas Toy Shop

It’s that time of year again!


Believe it or not, preparations are underway for Christmas at MUST Ministries!

Christmas is ComingMUST Toy Shop will openDecember 5, 2012MUST will host a volunteer orientation for the upcIf your group would like to volunteer for a shift or host a Toy Drive.Please come to our orientation to get all your questions answered.
MUST MinistriesMarietta Location1407 Cobb Parkway NorthMarietta, GA 30061Use the staff/volunteer entrance(back portion of the building) MUST MinistriesCherokee Location141-B Marietta RoadCanton, GA 30114Use the staff/volunteer entrance(back portion of the building)
October 16th 10 amOctober 17th 2 pmOctober 18th 6 pm October 16th 6 pmOctober 17th 9 amOctober 18th 2:30 pm
Each orientation will last about 1 hour depending on the amount of questions.The group leader will need to attend only one orientation.


Please select one of the sessions to attend. For further information or questions, please contact Paula Rigsby at or at 678-218-4488.