By KENYA KING (Special to the Daily World)
Affectionately called Mr. and Mrs. O, Afemo and Elisabeth Omilami, who for more than a decade have dedicated their lives to providing for the poor and homeless, were “stunned” to find their organization in the same position as many of the people they serve – homeless.
After 13 years of holding their holiday dinners on the grounds of Turner Field, this past July, the Omilamis were told that due to multimillion-dollar renovations, they would no longer be able to hold their annual events there.
“All of a sudden we are homeless as far as a venue for our main big dinners where thousands of people show up, and we tried to figure out what to do,” said Afemo Omilami, who serves as the organization’s programs operations manager.
While the change was a disappointing reality, Omilami expressed appreciation for the space occupied in the past at Turner Field. “They’ve been very good to us, [and] we were very thankful,” he said, “but it still was a shocker to find out that whoa, we have no home now.”
With only a few months to prepare for the change, the Omilamis discovered that despite the myriad services they provide to thousands of people annually, no one was willing to donate space, as Turner Field had done for 13 years.
The responses the Omilamis received were nothing short of “we aren’t like Turner Field – we want money” and ultimately equated to the tune of more than $20,000 for the space needed. Omilami said that “everybody wanted something,” but the organization “simply did not have that kind of money.”
Not only did the organization need thousands of dollars for rental space, but other amenities were necessary, such as a place for people to shower and get other basic services.
“There were logistical considerations and transportation issues” that added up to thousands of dollars above the rental fees, said Omilami. “We did not budget for such a thing,” he said.
In a quandary to find a suitable location, the Omilamis did what they’ve done in the past – put the word out that they needed assistance. The Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless (HFTH) organization’s benefactor came from not far way through Atlanta Falcons owner and CEO Arthur Blank.
Afemo Omilami said that he was gratified that Blank and his family had come to some of their events throughout the years at Turner Field and had seen firsthand what the organization does for the community. Blank covered the rental costs for both HFTH’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, which were held at the Georgia World Congress Center. “He’s been a Santa Clause to us,” said