By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
December 12, 2018
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- One Valdosta man transformed his life to make a difference in the lives of others.
Alonzo Atkins walks the familiar steps through downtown Valdosta with new eyes. For four years, he called those streets home.
"I felt loneliness, I felt hurt, I felt despair, I felt hopeless," Atkins said. "As I'm sitting here right now, I'm looking around at some of the buildings that I worked in, and right here where I'm sitting is a place where I actually slept at."
Now, the streets of Valdosta are his mission.
"I remember laying on a bench one night in West Palm Beach, and a lady walked up to me and all she stated was that the only way that you can work with the homeless was to experience it yourself, and she walked off," Atkins said.
This year, Atkins founded Project Rescue. The non-profit organization fights poverty and homelessness in Valdosta.
"Most of the times it's only a band aid put on it. We're trying to do it where we'll get people off of the streets, into homes and into employment," said Clara Edwards, Project Rescue Board Member.
Project Rescue works with many community partners, like DFACS and LAMP, and Atkins said Councilwoman Vivian Miller-Cody helped him push the organization forward.
"Some of us forget that we are all one paycheck away from being homeless, but we look down on the person that's down, that's reaching up to help," Cody said.
The group provides a free meal in Olympic Park the third Saturday of every month. They also help connect the community with what they need, from clothing and food assistance to finding employment.
"People looked down on me, people said I wouldn't make it," Atkins said. "The only time you should look down upon a person is when you're reaching down to lift them up."
Atkins, now using a past life to build a future for those in need.
"To share my story, to give them the encouragement that if God did it for me, he can do it for you," Atkins said.
Project Rescue will be holding a special Christmas event this Saturday at Olympic Park. There will be a meal, as well as a clothing and Christmas gift drive.
Contact Project Rescue to find out how to help support the program.