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Monday
Sep232013

Georgia Family Donates Cancelled Wedding's Reception to Homeless

Alvin Evans(ATLANTA) -- When Willie and Carol Fowler's only daughter cancelled her wedding 40 days before she was set to walk down the aisle, the parents were faced with a venue, food and entertainment that had all been paid for.

But instead of canceling everything and losing their deposits, they decided to change the guest list -- to 200 homeless people.

"We went home that evening and my husband woke up the next morning and I was in the process of canceling out the venue and he said, 'No, what we'll do is donate it to Hosea Feed the Hungry,'" Carol Fowler told ABC News Monday.

"It was a vision," Fowler said of her husband's idea. "He said he had prayed on it during the night and God had directed him and that's what we were going to do."

The Fowlers called Hosea Feed the Hungry, an organization that their daughter had volunteered for when she was younger. It is a nonprofit organization in Atlanta, Ga., that provides homeless individuals with services and resources.

"When they first called, the administration thought it was a prank call because it was too good to be true," Quisa Foster of Hosea Feed the Hungry said. "It's a very creme de la creme wedding venue, so to say that you're going to host 200 homeless individuals at Villa Christina -- it sounds like a prank call."

The Fowlers persisted and eventually had a meeting with the organization to prove their good intentions and plan the event.

On Sept. 15, buses transported 200 homeless women, children and families to Villa Christina for the event. It began at 2 p.m. with outdoor appetizers and space for the children to run and play.

The event then moved inside, where approximately 50 children had a room to themselves with face-painting, juggling and crowns.

"The children had chicken fingers, French fries, fresh fruit and chocolate chip cookies," Carol Fowler said. "The adults had salmon and chicken."

"All the plates were empty and there wasn't any leftover food at all. It was an eye-opening experience," Foster said. "You go to weddings sometimes and you see a lot of people really waste food. We take so many things for granted. These clients or guests, as we call them, they don't."

The day's "inspiration program" included a motivational speaker for the adults.

"When you look at the faces of the women and children and actually participated in the event, they look like you and me," Foster said. "These are working families that for whatever reason -- the recession, economic turn -- have found themselves in a place where they're without a place to live and starting over."

"It was a wonderful event. It brought tears to my eyes," she said.

The Fowlers were very involved in the whole event and enjoyed greeting all of their guests. Their daughter was also on hand for a day that was "bittersweet but rewarding" for her, Willie Fowler said. The family declined to comment on why the wedding had been cancelled.

"There is no way to explain how it makes you feel, but it's wonderful," Willie Fowler said of seeing the joy at the event.

"It's just that wonderful, rewarding feeling," Carol Fowler said. "If we could just inspire one youth in that crowd to rise above the situation today and be a very responsible member of society tomorrow, that would be extremely rewarding."

The Fowlers are hoping to make the affair a yearly event that will be two days and incorporate educational elements for the participants.

They pointed out that events are cancelled all the time and encouraged others to think about donating.

"If you have cancelled an event, do not walk away. Pick up the phone and call your favorite charity and offer it to them," Carol Fowler said. "We're regular, working people and anybody can do this. This is not star stuff."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio