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Meet Emory Paul of Soul Supplies in Metro Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emory Paul.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Emory. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My name is Emory Paul, and I am a junior at Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia. My view of the world as a place of sunshine and rainbows had been upended when my eight-year-old self witnessed the large homeless population in downtown Atlanta being ignored by the thousands of fans at a Braves game one night. I seemed to be one of the few people who interacted with the homeless or gave them money that night as I forced my dad to give me a dollar to give to a homeless man. The tens of thousands of people who were in attendance at that game were all so focused on cheering and getting to the game that they didn’t heed the starving people lying on the sidewalk. I didn’t understand why this wasn’t a bigger issue.

Why did they choose to ignore the blatant epidemic that is homelessness: people slowly dying on the street corner, desperately pleading for help, wrapping their children in scraps found in the nearby trash can? Why did they simply walk over them like they were just pieces of trash someone dropped on the ground? Homelessness and the horrid living conditions that come with it were everywhere, yet most people acted oblivious to it. There are millions of homeless people in the world, yet too many, they don’t exist. Yet to many, homeless people are entirely at fault for their inhumane situation and deserve to be looked down upon as worthless, morally corrupt individuals in society. But to me, people who suffer from homelessness are not just “homeless people”; they are humans who have fallen on hard times and unfortunate circumstances in life and need love, care, and assistance. They are people who have as much potential to do good as any other person and should be treated as such. Once I had gained this perspective, I could not turn a blind eye.

My nonprofit was sparked when I was passing out backpacks filled with supplies with a club at my school, we were unable to provide everyone with a backpack. When a man who was homeless asked me if we had an extra backpack and we replied that we had unfortunately run out, I saw the despondent look in his eyes. It was at that moment that I knew I needed to make a difference and turn my passion into action.

With the initial help and support of the GivingPoint Social Innovators Academy, I created a nonprofit organization called Soul Supplies, Inc. I am the Founder and President of Soul Supplies, a nonprofit that provides backpacks filled with hygiene products, essential supplies, food, clothes, helpful information, and much more to the homeless population in downtown Atlanta. For each distribution event, I research and organize the event, advertise for donations, collect and organize supplies, pack the backpacks, organize volunteers and then pass out the backpacks to the homeless along with my group of volunteers. In addition to passing out the bags, we make sure to introduce ourselves, shake their hands, and ask each homeless man or woman their name and story. We try to connect with them and make them feel as if they are cared for and loved.

In the few months that we have been officially operating, we have directly helped over 150 homeless people in the downtown Atlanta area, delivered over 3,000 items of supplies and collected over 5,000, and had over 200 donators and over 50 volunteers! We have partnered with Georgia State’s Phi Alpha Delta, Give a Folk Storytelling, Bar-Mitzvah Projects, and many more wonderful organizations, and I have been written about and interviewed in the Marietta Daily Journal, East Cobb News, GoodInx, and other great publications. This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to continue to raise awareness to the drastic issue of homelessness and serve the homeless community in Atlanta and beyond.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I wanted to accomplish something; I wanted to help someone. In the beginning, I was the only person on the staff, and I had doubts as to how I could do everything. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to operate a nonprofit and that I would fail the people who believed in me and the people who suffer from homelessness. I continued to have an internal struggle with my confidence and shortcomings until one day, I just decided to do it. I organized a neighborhood drive, where I collected over 1,000 supplies, and I used these supplies to fill 33 backpacks. I went to downtown Atlanta, passed out those backpacks, and developed a genuine relationship with each person I helped. I learned a lot from this first drive. I learned that I have the ability within me to run a nonprofit and truly help people. I learned that we are all humans deserving of love and happiness, no matter our class or background.

And most importantly, I learned that the world is what you make of it. I met an amazing man named Scott Maurice Thomas a.k.a. “The Mayor.” He is the self-proclaimed mayor of Woodruff Park and one of the nicest people we met. He has been homeless off and on for seven years, and he looks out for everyone at the park and helped pass out bags. One of the many memorable things he said was that “the laughing and smiling stops the crying.” He showed me that although the world can be a cruel and unforgiving place, it doesn’t have to be for you. He was homeless, but still had a smile on his face because your circumstances don’t have to define you. I will never forget what he taught me that day – just keep smiling, no matter what.

Please tell us about Soul Supplies.
Soul Supplies is a nonprofit organization raises awareness to the drastic issue of homelessness and provides backpacks filled with hygiene products, essential supplies, food, clothes, helpful information, and much more to the homeless population in downtown Atlanta. For each distribution event, I research and organize the event, advertise for donations, collect and organize supplies, pack the backpacks, organize volunteers and then pass out the backpacks to the homeless in downtown Atlanta along with my group of volunteers.

As the Founder of Soul Supplies, I am most proud of our dedication to humanizing the homeless population, raising awareness to the many issues that affect homeless people, and creating an environment where homeless people feel loved and respected. People who suffer from homelessness are not just “homeless people”; they are humans who have fallen on hard times and unfortunate circumstances in life and need love, care, and assistance. They are people who have as much potential to do good as any other person and should be treated as such. In addition to passing out the bags, we make sure to introduce ourselves, shake their hands, and ask each homeless man or woman their name and story. I believe that by us trying to connect with them and make them feel as if they are cared for and loved, along with giving them a platform and a voice to tell the world their story, is what sets us apart from other organizations that pass out supplies.

In the few months that we have been officially operating, we have directly helped over 150 homeless people in the downtown Atlanta area, delivered over 3,000 items of supplies and collected over 5,000, and had over 200 donators and over 50 volunteers! We have partnered with Georgia State’s Phi Alpha Delta, Give a Folk Storytelling, Bar-Mitzvah Projects, and many more wonderful organizations, and I have been written about and interviewed in the Marietta Daily Journal, East Cobb News, GoodInx, and other great publications. This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to continue to raise awareness to the drastic issue of homelessness and serve the homeless community in Atlanta and beyond.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I would have relied less on general Internet research on what supplies I should ask for and include in the backpacks that I pass out to the homeless. For my first drive, I asked for a generalized list of donations that I listed based on what other people on the Internet said, so the resulting backpacks filled with supplies were all the same. But as I passed out the backpacks to the homeless after my first drive and had the opportunity to talk to each person individually, I realized and learned that each person who suffers from homelessness is not the same person, and they have different needs. I was then able to ask them directly what supplies they needed and what I should include in the backpacks, instead of relying on generalized supplies, which allowed me to better serve their needs and help them in the most effective way possible.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 924 Forest Pond Drive
    Marietta, Georgia 30068
    United States
  • Website: http://www.soulsupplies.org/
  • Phone: 770-903-2979
  • Email: soulsuppliesatlanta@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @soulsuppliesatlanta

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