LaKesha Williamson decided to put her Christian faith into action through a new outreach ministry.
LaKesha Williamson wanted to do her part as a follower of Christ and help meet people’s needs when she signed up for a mission trip to California in 2018. As her group from Church of the Highlands in Alabaster delivered meals to people unable to leave their homes, passed out toiletry bags to the homeless and ministered to whomever they could on the streets of Los Angeles, a tagline for what the group was trying to accomplish came to LaKesha and stuck with her long after the trip. “God put on my heart the name ‘Hands and Feet of Jesus,’” she says. The group’s goal was to put their faith into action and provide for people’s physical needs—and, in the process, develop relationships with them and pour hope into their lives.
LaKesha didn’t anticipate the trip also laying the foundation for a project of her own when she returned home to Shelby County. But after a few days of serving in Los Angeles, she realized the concept could be applied easily to any area where homelessness is prevalent, including Birmingham. When she started making plans for her local ministry, she knew what its name would be: Hands and Feet of Jesus. The group – now comprised of about 30 volunteers, including LaKesha’s aunt, Wanda Naylor – achieved non-profit status in April. In addition to collecting materials and monetary donations, LaKesha and her volunteer team travel to public places in the downtown Birmingham area on the fourth Saturday of every month and give out 100-150 prepackaged bags of toiletries – soap, hand sanitizer, deodorant, lotion and other essentials – plus clothing, bath towels and non-perishable foods. Volunteer and hair stylist Cecilia Glass even offered free haircuts one Saturday.
The group also supports individuals in both Shelby and Jefferson counties in emergency situations, such as sudden job loss or financial hardship. “We go downtown because you’re never going to go downtown and not see homeless people,” she says. “Most of our needs here in Shelby County are people who have lost a job or are financially struggling. We do serve a lot of people who live somewhere, but are barely making it to their next check.”
People can donate funds or items from the preceding list to the ministry. “Right now, everything we do is based on donations,” LaKesha says. “We accept whatever people can give.” People can also just donate their time. The group meets at a storage unit in Calera to sort and bag items once a month in preparation for the delivery days, which are the fourth Saturday of every month from 8:30 a.m. to noon. LaKesha and the other volunteers also make an effort to talk to and listen to those who come by their tables. “We encourage volunteers to talk to people. I want everybody to connect with at least one person every time we go. We’re there to develop relationships.”
Every person LaKesha and her volunteers meet has a different story. Some struggle with drug abuse, while others cope with mental illness. “It’s depressing sometimes. You want so much better for people,” LaKesha says, adding the group’s goal is to “help, encourage and pray for them.”
Hands and Feet of Jesus has served more than 100 people every month since its founding with donations alone. Private and corporate donors have contributed generously and consistently to the organization, and volunteers have served faithfully alongside LaKesha to carry out the ministry she prayed would be successful in the area. “It has been rewarding,” she says. “I never expected God to do what he has done in just these five months.”
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HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Donations can be made at paypal.me/handsandfeetministry.
To see updates and current needs from the Hands and Feet of Jesus team, follow @handsandfeetministry on Facebook.
For more information about volunteering or donating to the ministry, contact LaKesha Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.