When Carol and Willie Fowler learned that their daughter Tamara's wedding had been called off just 40 days before the big day, they were shocked. They also had an important decision to make - what to do about the deposit that had already been paid to the venue, Villa Christina, for the 200-guest reception. Instead of letting the money go to waste, Willie suggested they turn the wedding into an event for the homeless. The next day, Carol reached out to a local charity, Hosea Feed the Hungry, and asked if they could donate the dinner.
"At first, I thought it was a prank call because it was such an amazing offering," Elisabeth Omilami, CEO of Hosea Feed the Hungry, said in a radio interview. "And then she said she wanted to focus on women and families… 70 percent of the homeless in Atlanta are children."
Related: 10 Ways to Make Your Wedding Kid-Friendly
With the plan in motion, Omilami and her team reached out to other charities in the area - Nicholas House, Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and Mary Hall Freedom House - and told them, "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."
On the day of the event, the Fowlers' daughter Tamara joined in on the celebration with her family. "We're very pleased that she's handling it so well," said Carol. "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."
But it wasn't just a party for the kids; it provided a learning experience as well, like teaching them proper table etiquette. "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?" Omilani shared. "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."
Related: 12 Etiquette Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making
The event was named the First Annual Fowler Family Celebration of Love, and the family hopes to host an even larger event next year. Hosea Feed the Hungry is also entered into a contest where, if they win, they'll receive $30,000 to host a similar event this Christmas - you can vote for them here.
"Events are cancelled, 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," said Carol. See more photos from the event here!
By Kristen O'Gorman Klein