Wheat Street Baptist Church Initial Serving Site For Atlanta’s Annual Historic Holiday Feast

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    One of Atlanta’s noted traditions commemorating the official start of the holiday season is the annual Thanksgiving Day massive meal hosted by the late Hosea Williams’ Hosea Feed the Hungry. This year marks the 44th anniversary of this organization’s historic gathering. It has grown to become known as the nation’s largest holiday feast for those with the least.

    “What is not widely known is that 44 years ago Hosea’s first Thanksgiving meal was served at Wheat Street Baptist Church Christian Education Auditorium,” said Barbara Bush, president of the Wheat Street Baptist Church Action Mission Ministry, Inc. “The Wheat Street Action Mission Ministry team keeps serving meals long after the great tree at Lenox has been hauled off; the Martin Luther King holiday has come and gone; and the city resumes its back to business as usual mode,”

    “Last year we served over 25,000 hot meals and donated about 30,000 pounds of food to the Atlanta’s needy citizens,” she added. “We serve meals twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. In addition to serving hot meals, we issue vouchers, which can be redeemed for donations from our clothing and food pantry, as well as some household furnishing.”

    According to Bush, Wheat Street church records indicate that the late Rev. Hosea Williams approached the late Dr. Williams Holmes Borders Sr., the former pastor of WSBC, to use the church’s Christian Education Auditorium as a place to serve Atlanta’s less fortunate citizens who had no means to prepare, nor a place to partake in the traditional holiday meal.

    Bush added that church records also confirmed that the WSBC congregation gave their monetary blessings along with their permission and support for Williams to use the church kitchen and auditorium. The facility was also used as a shelter for both men and women. The women were housed upstairs in the auditorium, and men occupied the basement. “We were able to provide lodging for approximately 80 men and women,” she said.

    By the mid-1980s attendees and volunteers of Hosea’s Feed The Hungry had outgrown the space provided by Wheat Street’s Christian Education Building. They subsequently obtained their own office / storage space, and relocated the annual holiday feast several times before settling on their present location at the Georgia World Congress Center.

    The WSBC Action Mission Ministry (AMM) is staffed by a core group of dedicated volunteers. Fellow AMM board members, It is an approved 501 (C-3) nonprofit agency. All donations are tax deductible. Earling Rosser, president emeritus, Samuel Stephens treasurer, and the head chef, Winston Brunn arrive at 5:00 am to begin meal preparations. These three work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly week in and week out.

    The chef drives 60 miles, roundtrip, three times a week for activities related to the AMM. Stephens is relentless in his efforts to acquire food donations from the food bank and local supermarkets. Rosser scours thrift stores throughout the metro area replenishing the never ending need for clothing for both men and women.

    “We conduct bi weekly bible study classes too. We not only provide physical nourishment, but spiritual nourishment as well,” Bush said “Recently our ministry was blessed with the donation of a condominium which is located in Atlanta’s northwest area of town. Once we complete the renovations on the property, we plan to utilize it as a temporary transitional home for families trying to re-establish themselves back into mainstream society.”

    “Forty-four years ago, the annual Hosea’s Feed the Hungry Thanksgiving meal grew out of a need [that] focused primarily on hunger during the holiday season. Hunger is prevalent every day, and the WSBC Action Mission Ministry does its part weekly to lessen some of the city’s hunger pangs,” Bush said. “We must remain focused because we are about our Father’s business.”

    Henrietta Spearman is a Freelance Journalist. She is a former Columnist with the Atlanta Business Chronicle and Staff Reporter and Photographer with The AJC respectively

    For more information contact Henrietta Spearman via email at REO73@AOL.com or call (404) 371-9979

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