December 10, 2021

Local family answers Oliver Maner's challenge to donate to the women’s emergency housing center supply drive

Amelia C. Stevens

At the beginning of the holiday season, Oliver Maner pledged to help fight homelessness in our community by supporting Parker’s House: A Home For Women. Under Union Mission's umbrella, it is an emergency housing center and program for homeless women that will open in the first quarter of 2022. The firm’s effort, headed by attorneys Amelia Stevens, Victoria Nease and Joy Bonner included a challenge to other Savannah law firms and members of the community to collect supplies so the program will open fully stocked.

The response has been wonderful, and one large donation, in particular, caught the attention of the firm.

In late November, Victoria White and her daughter Alethia Edwards, two individuals not affiliated with a Savannah law firm or business, dropped off a carload of donations for the women’s shelter. It was such a large amount of supplies, Oliver Maner Firm Administrator Sara Jo Rowell couldn’t let them leave without finding out more about them and the story behind their generosity.

Ms. White was happy to oblige. Many years ago, the mother of seven children was tragically widowed at a young age. Despite the odds stacked against her, the family pulled through with the help of friends and the community. Her children are grown now and have families of their own, and they never forgot how blessed they were to survive intact.

“I've always been a very compassionate person and I always felt the need to give back. I became a single mom at a very early age, and we have just been blessed. I just feel the need to help someone in need with what little do I have. I always want to try to share it and teach my children,” White said.

This informal holiday custom became a family-wide tradition four years ago when Ms. White and her children decided to forego giving gifts to each other and instead chip in to a common cause. They share ideas on what charity to support and do the best they can to help.

Homelessness was a cause they all agreed to support in the first years of their endeavor. Helping women suffering from domestic abuse was also a cause to which they offered assistance. This year, Ms. White’s daughter Alethia Edwards saw the story of Parker’s House, which is set to open early next year, and the donation drive that Oliver Maner was hosting. A program exclusively for homeless women resonated with Alethia because she believed that when people hear about homelessness, they typically think of men.

“My daughter saw this organization for homeless women on the news and she asked me, ‘Mom, why don’t we do something for them?’,” Ms. White explained. “We all agreed that would be a good thing.”

The family can relate to the challenges these women face, to an extent. While they were never homeless after Ms. White’s husband died, there were struggles. “I always said, if it wasn’t for someone else reaching out to help us, we wouldn’t be where we are today, able to help others,” she added. “I appreciated it so much and it is such a blessing.”

Ms. White and her family are the personifications of what Oliver Maner set out to do when it first made the challenge to others to join in and support the fight against homelessness. While many local law firms and citizens answered the call, a family joining together to make a difference in lieu of giving each other gifts is a remarkable testament to the generosity of our community. Their heartwarming tale of perseverance, gratitude, love and selflessness is inspiring, and a lesson that extends beyond the spirit of the holiday season.

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