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Friday, September 20, 2013

Atlanta Wedding Reception Donated To The Homeless

Hosts of a cancelled wedding donated an elaborate reception to Atlanta’s homeless last Sunday.

Carol and Willie Fowler teamed up with Hosea Feed the Hungry, a local organization serving families in need, to turn the wedding-that-wasn’t into the first annual Fowler Family Celebration of Love, feeding 200 unexpected guests.

“We’re very pleased that she’s handling it so well,” Carol Fowler told Here & Now about her daughter. “She was also very delighted to see and know that others had an opportunity to enjoy something, rather than just allow it to go to waste.”

Elizabeth Omilami, head of Hosea Feed the Hungry, told Here & Now that the children who attended the event will never forget it.

“The passed hors d’oeuvre were very interesting because the children were wondering, ‘could we take the whole tray, or do we just take one off of the tray?’” Omilami said. “So this was an educational opportunity as well, because now they all know how to eat at a four-course meal and the etiquette involved in that.” 

Fowler had this message for other families:

“Events are canceled, and sometimes for unknown reasons. Do no allow that opportunity to go to waste. Call up your favorite charity. Give them an opportunity to use that for people that will not have an opportunity, perhaps in life.”


  • Carol Fowler, donated wedding reception.
  • Elisabeth Omilami, CEO of Hosea Feed the Hungry.




And when we were in Atlanta earlier this week, a story caught our eye. It started as a nightmare. A family had invested thousands in a wedding - dinner for 200 at the Villa Christina restaurant, complete with gold plates, crystal glasses. Then something went wrong; the wedding was called off. What to do? Well, the family decided to give the reception to the homeless.

The Fowler family of Atlanta donated their reception to groups like Hosea Feed the Hungry and Mary Hall Freedom House. They were the recipients. Joining us from the studios of WABE in Atlanta are Carol Fowler, one of the hosts. Welcome.

CAROL FOWLER: Thank you.

YOUNG: And Elisabeth Omilami. She's with Hosea Feed the Hungry. Elisabeth, welcome to you as well.

ELISABETH OMILAMI: Thank you so much.

YOUNG: And Carol, we don't want to pry, but we know that it was your daughter, Tamara, who actually went to the reception that is now - that was now for the homeless in the Atlanta area - who was part of a wedding that was called off. Was this a shock to you, the parent, when this happened?

FOWLER: Yes, we were surprised, and we're very pleased that she's handling it so well.

YOUNG: I should say so. I mean, going to...

FOWLER: Yes, indeed.

YOUNG: Going to the reception that was going to be for her, and now it's for 200 strangers.

FOWLER: Yes, and she was also very delighted to see and know that others had an opportunity to enjoy something rather than just allow it to go to waste.

YOUNG: Well, but here you are, the parent, and along with your husband, Willie Fowler, I only imagine this was costing thousands. You had 200 guests, beautiful place settings; it just seemed like a wonderful hall. You could've had 200 of your friends. You could've had the friends who were invited still come, and feed them. When was the decision made to give this meal to the homeless?

FOWLER: Forty days prior to the wedding, when we were made aware that there would no longer be a wedding, it was my husband's idea. We prayed about it. And when he woke up the next morning, he said, we're going to call Hosea Feed the Hungry, and ask if we can donate it to the needy. I immediately looked up the number and called, and spoke with Mrs. Elisabeth Omilami. And in doing so, we partnered. And it was such a wonderful feeling just to partner with them.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well, I want to bring Elisabeth in. Elisabeth, what happens when you get that phone call from the Fowlers saying, we'd like to give you our reception for 200?

OMILAMI: At first, I thought it was a prank call because it was such an amazing offering. And then she said she wanted to focus on women and families, that she wanted to focus on children - which 70 percent of the homeless in Atlanta are children. And so we had an opportunity to go out and look for places like the Nicholas House and Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, as well as Mary Hall Freedom House. We'd called them all. We said, the Fowler family is going to have a party for you! Then they said, what do you mean? Then we said, it's just for you. There's no cost. All you have to do is get there. They never would've - we were talking about which fork to use.


OMILAMI: And we would try to teach the children about the etiquette of sitting at a formal table setting. So it was just an exciting day, and example of how we can address the issues of homelessness across the country.

YOUNG: Elisabeth, tell us more about the actual meal. You mentioned the forks - probably three, you know, and then a couple of spoons. And I mentioned, this is at the Villa Christina, beautiful settings, sweet tea lemonade, hors d'oeuvres.

OMILAMI: Four glasses.

YOUNG: Four glasses, which...

OMILAMI: Yes. Four glasses...

YOUNG: For a lot of people is...

OMILAMI: And a wonderful - passed hors d'oeuvres, and then a wonderful four-course meal as well as dessert. The passed hors d'oeuvres were very interesting because the children were wondering, could we take the whole tray or do we just take one off of the tray?


OMILAMI: So this was an educational opportunity as well because now, they all know how to eat at a four-course meal, and the etiquette involved in that.

YOUNG: That's Elisabeth Omilami of Hosea Feed the Hungry. It's a homeless organization in the Atlanta area. They were the beneficiary of an incredible gift from the Fowler family. We're speaking with Carol Fowler. She was supposed to be the mother of the bride. You're listening to HERE AND NOW.

Well, so here you have this event just this past Sunday. We understand you renamed it from Tamara's wedding to the First Annual Fowler Family Celebration of Love.

OMILAMI: Yes, and I got that from Mr. Fowler because it was his birthday. It was his 70th birthday, and he could have had his own birthday party, but he got up and he talked about what it meant to be a real man. And he talked about the commitment to the community, as a real man. And after I heard him speak, I realized that this was a celebration of love - love between Carol and Willie and the Fowler family, their love for the poor, and Hosea Feed the Hungry's love for the 61,000 people we serve per year.

YOUNG: OK. So it's been renamed the First Annual Fowler Family Celebration of Love.


YOUNG: Will there be another one, Carol?

FOWLER: We would love it to happen, and we will start working on it immediately. What we would like to do is look for sponsors, to have a larger gathering.

YOUNG: Well, and I'm wondering, too, you might also get the word out that if others have, I mean, weddings get canceled. Thousands of them get canceled every year.

FOWLER: Yes. Mm-hmm.

YOUNG: We did a story about a website where you can resell your wedding, but what an idea to maybe give it away. And I'm sure there was a little - perhaps a tax write-off; not that that's why you would ever do it.

OMILAMI: Available.

YOUNG: Yeah.

OMILAMI: The difference in selling your wedding and giving it away, as the Fowlers did, is that these children will never forget what they experienced - for the rest of their lives.

FOWLER: Exactly.

OMILAMI: We had a face painting there. We had 16 different - the entertainment for the children, 16 different acts. And then the inspirational teaching that we got to pour into them to let them know, your beginning does not determine your destiny.

FOWLER: Exactly. That is not our main focus - a tax write-off - because if we're able just to save one child in that group and have them soar to the heights of corporate America, we will have won.

YOUNG: Well, and I'm thinking, too, Carol Fowler, something Elisabeth just said - that the message that came from your husband and others to these kids was, your beginning is not your destiny - I'm wondering if that's a message for your daughter Tamara as well.

FOWLER: I'm certain it is. As I indicated and stated previously, she is handling it very well. There is no empathy or pity to be given. She is a young, educated, black woman with many opportunities.

YOUNG: Well, in the picture that I'm looking at in the Atlanta Constitution as she greets her guests at what was going to be her wedding, she looks pretty happy.

FOWLER: She is...

OMILAMI: And she was.

FOWLER: There's a message I would like to leave with the public, and that is: Events are canceled and sometimes, for unknown reasons. Do not allow that opportunity to go to waste. Call up your favorite charity. Give them an opportunity to use that for people that will not have an opportunity, perhaps, in life.

YOUNG: That's Carol Fowler. She was to be the mother of the bride. But when a wedding was canceled, the family decided to give it to the homeless. We've also been speaking with Elisabeth Omilami of Hosea Feed the Hungry, the homeless organization in the Atlanta area that was one of the recipients of the Fowler family's generosity. Thank you both.

FOWLER: You're welcome.

OMILAMI: Thank you, Robin.

FOWLER: Thank you, Robin.

YOUNG: To heck with that guy!


FOWLER: She is not marred by it, in the least.

OMILAMI: ...missed a beat.


YOUNG: Sorry, a little editorializing there. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.


I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • OhTHATCarol

    What an incredible story! What an incredible family! What an amazing bride that young woman will make if she decides she’s found the right partner.

  • Betty

    Is this a picture from the event? I don’t see any of these “homeless children” in the photo.

    • RobinY

      There’s one at the end of the slideshow.. remember, the kids had their own
      banquet room!
      All best

    • Michelle

      Just because people don’t “look” homeless doesn’t mean that they aren’t!!!

    • Coyoty

      Homeless does not mean soapless or clothesless.

  • d_arcy_2

    Read Luke, chapter 14. I think the Fowlers must have.

    • Paducah72

      I think they forget to read Matthew 6:1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

      But thanks for bringing up Luke 14. It’s an interesting verse.

      • sdpt45

        Um, by posting this as some way to call them out for whatever transgression you imagine they’re guilty of, didn’t you just run afoul of the verse you quoted yourself? I mean seriously.

        • John D

          Who says that Paducah even believes it? Plenty of non-Christians read the Bible.

        • Paducah72

          Calm down. I’m just pointing out of a verse in the bible. And yes, I am a Christian, that’s why I bothered to post it.

      • Coyoty

        It would be kind of hard for them to keep something like this a secret, no matter how much they try to avoid the spotlight. The spotlight has a mind of its own. Anyway, the notoriety is good if it encourages others to follow their example, which is what parables are for.

  • gfloyd

    A wedding is not an investment. I know some folks treat it like that wondering how much they will make on it. I’ve heard some folks complain when they feel that people have not given them what they think is not enough $$.

  • Greg Stueve

    I wonder if the money they paid for the dinner was nonrefundable. If it was nonrefundable, I can’t think of a better, more generous, gesture. However, if the money was refundable, I don’t think a fancy dinner was the best use of the money. They could have fed 200 people for a year for half of the money they paid for that one meal. The complaints that people have made about the Fowler family publicizing the event don’t resonate with me. I suspect that Elisabeth Omilami was the person who publicized the event in order to increase awareness of poverty and hunger.

    • Pennylane22

      sometimes we have to let a situation just stand and enjoy the beauty of the moment. there is always another way to handle things, but this was just one lovely way.

  • alex

    I pray for the families and the couple that the adversary has torn apart.
    I HOPE oneday people will realize one of the strongest most valueable
    thing GOD GAVE IN THIS EARTH IS LOVE and love is more powerful then negitive

  • Lawrence

    A great story. I always thought it would be such a selfless and wonderful statement for some President of the USA to give up his or her multi million dollar inauguration balls for something like this. What an impact that would have to show us they are really are for the people.
    You listening Hillary?

  • SisterBenedict

    What a lovely thing to do! I hope that eligible men take note: this is a family you would want to marry into!

    • SisterBenedict

      They seem like kind, loving people.

    • Greg Stueve

      I agree. I bet she has men lining up to ask to marry her!

  • Pam

    Evcessive spending on weddings could be put to better use,even when the event is not cancelled.Too many people believe they have to spend at least $25,000 on a wedding to have a good time.

  • Paul

    Please be careful in your presumptive criticism of the groom(to heck with that guy). HE did NOT cancel the wedding. This gesture by the Fowlers is great, and the groom has been supportive of the ,bride to be,in her decisions. I know this story will possibly make national headlines, but I will be watching to make sure my nephew is not demonized in some way , when he is actually the victim

    • BYC

      The plot thickens. By the way the story is written (no sympathy for the bride) I suspected that she was the reason for the cancelation and not the groom. Either way, the article itself is really celebrating the event and does not demonize either party.

      • Roosevelt

        On the Tom Joyner Morning Show this morning, the mother made derogatory joke after being pressed about why the wedding was cancelled. The more this story is picked up, the more she will be pressed to answer that question. It is also not an accident that the daughter is not on the interviews. This was great act in the wake of a sad turn of events, however it would take little effort take to up for the would be”groom” and not let the public assume the groom screwed up.

  • LydiasDad

    How long before someone complains that the Fowler’s FORCED these people to pray, and recognize a God they might not believe in? Here come the wacko atheists very soon… So many good deeds are often criticized for stupid reasons.

    • Johan Corby

      Seems like you’re criticizing for things that haven’t happened. Is this how you spend your days? Getting upset about stuff that MIGHT happen?

      • LydiasDad

        Life experience son. Maybe you don’t have much yet. I hope I’m wrong, but my experience tells me it will happen. Isn’t this a “discussion” board, or is it a “only what Johan Corby wants to hear” board?

        • Johan Corby

          Watch who you’re calling son, patsy. So quick to make assumptions about people and situations that you’re ignorant of. Such a sad little troll.

          • LydiasDad

            You obviously think you matter far more than you actually do.

  • Rachel G.

    Why do any of you care who called it off, whose fault it was, whether the groom or the bride caused the split? It doesn’t matter who ended the wedding. That part is just useless gossip. The POINT is that instead of the family taking the money back (which they probably couldn’t do, much of that stuff isn’t refundable) or using it on themselves, they did something really nice for complete strangers who needed it. They didn’t just give them food, they gave them an experience which could inspire hope, hope that they can get OUT of poverty and that there are people willing to help them along the way. Sure, you can give a person some food, and that helps them to not starve. I’ve been on both ends of that transaction, I’ve been poor before and also helped feed the poor. But does it help their sense of hopelessness they get from being stuck in poverty? Does a plate of food inspire a child to think he might rise above that someday? No. But what they did with this reception can. It wasn’t just a fancy meal, there were people giving inspirational speeches, people entertaining them and bringing some JOY to their lives. All of you who are nitpicking little bits of this to death with your negative attitudes need to look long and hard at yourselves, what is the root of all that negativity? Is your ego so great that you would dismiss the good that was done because your idea is “better”? Is your mind so closed with prejudices that all you can do is judge other people instead of see the good in them? Are you being critical because in your heart you know you would have done something different or more selfish, and so you must make them as base as yourself? Are you just unhappy and taking it out on others? This family is not perfect, and not one of you are either, but they thought this idea up out of the goodness of their hearts. I’m not a Christian, but a phrase they often use comes to mind here. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Or, as my father used to say, “Mind your own damn business!”. He was crass, but he had a good point.

    • BYC

      First things first, I think it’s a great thing the family did. There’s no denying this. But to your whole rant? No, not really any of that is true. I was just curious about the back story. Sometime you get a gut feeling that things aren’t exactly as they are painted by the media and you want to verify the facts. You have to read between the lines and wonder what was left out and why.

      Put yourself in the groom’s shoes for a second. As a pure hypothetical let’s say the bride was the that sprung this on him. Now he’s heartbroken, confused, and sitting there reading an article with tons of people gushing over how great his cancelled wedding turned out to be. This may not be the case, but that is why people want more details.

      • Veritas83

        Not sure who you are but Iam the groom and yes this is not an easy situation, appreciate the fact that you considered the other side when everyone in the world has me pegged as the one at fault. Thank you.

  • Hosea Feed The Hungry

    To make donations to Hosea Feed The Hungry please visit 4Hosea.org

    There is also an opportunity for Hosea Feed The Hungry to win a grant from Aetna that will fund much needed programs and services for homeless and underserved individuals and families.

    Please visit Vote4Hosea.org to cast your vote daily!

  • Daughteroftexas

    Lovely classy gesture! I’m sure this young lady will find a nice man worthy of her.

  • ItsNotTheSameThing

    What a great way to turn a sad situation into a great one. God bless!

  • Jeff B

    With all the negativity around, it is good to read something that makes us feel good…

  • Sofie

    It seams that there are no white homeless in Atlanta

    • Francis Parsons

      It *seems racist people don’t know how to spell.

  • SkyBride

    We at SkyBride loved what this family did with their canceled wedding, so we set up a page to help their new foundation and Hosea Feed the Hungry. Take a moment to donate! http://giving.skybride.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cacimbo-Smith/1142235495 Cacimbo Smith

    Excellent way for the next cancelled wedding to get there money back. If you don’t refund my deposit a few hundred homeless will be showing up.

  • Francis Parsons

    Beautiful story.

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