A Night of Celebration: God’s Gift of Love hosts Legacy Fundraiser Gala

Published 9:54 am Wednesday, October 25, 2017

AMERICUS — Many remember Essie Hill-Mathis as the loving and devoted mother to her daughters, Lanetta “Tiss” Mathis and Shonta Mathis-Harper. Others may also remember her as “one of the neighborhood mothers” between Elliot and Madison streets. And there are several others throughout the Americus-Sumter County area who may remember her for her commitment to service, especially to those who sometimes just needed a helping hand to simply get by.
Hill-Mathis became a pillar in this community due to her acts of kindness. Her selfless approach to giving grew out of the conditions she often faced as a mother doing her best to provide for her own family. She  therefore can be described as a true example of “paying it forward.” According to her daughter Shonta, her mom vowed to always help those in need in any way she could after someone extended a helping hand to Shonta and her sister.
“When we were kids, I never recognized that we were poor or less fortunate until one day after Ms. Colbert, a woman attending the same church as us — Inspirational Church by Faith — purchased robes for me and my sister. This act of love brought my mom to tears because as explained by her, Ms. Colbert didn’t have a lot of money but cared enough to share with us what she had,” said Shonta Mathis-Harper.
That one moment, that one selfless act of kindness encouraged Hill-Mathis to make a commitment to serve others. Her acts of service started with collecting canned goods and preparing hot meals, and delivering them to the senior citizens in her neighborhood. She also encouraged her daughters to be a part of her caring acts of service.
“I can remember we would sing for donations to help pay the utility bills and purchase fans during the summer for the senior citizens that were in need in our neighborhood,” said Tiss Mathis.
After a few years of selflessly addressing the concerns and needs of others and after realizing her health was no longer conducive to community service, Hill-Mathis asked for help from her mother and sisters. In 1996, with the support of her close family and friends, she founded God’s Gift of Life (GGOL). And for the past 20 years, GGOL has served some of South Georgia’s most vulnerable people, especially senior citizens and children from low-income households.
GGOL recognizes that life happens, challenges are common and unforeseen struggles occur. Currently under the leadership of Hill Mathis’ two daughters, Betty Fulks and an amazing leadership team, GGOL dedicates its commitment to provide underserved and at times overlooked individuals with household items after a fire, flood or any disasters; fellowship services to senior citizens; and mentorship services for children from low-income families.
“Our goal is to empower our citizens to reap the benefits of a rewarding and productive life. We strive to do that by demonstrating good character and citizenship, and helping others live a happy and healthy lifestyle,” added Shonta.
This year to support GGOL’s vision, the leadership team is hosting “The Legacy Fundraiser Gala.” The purpose of the Gala is to celebrate GGOL’s clients’ successes and its efforts to make a difference while also raising money in support and continue the following programs: Senior Citizen Adopt a Valentine, Christmas Stocking Giveaway, Children Mentorship initiatives (college application and financial aid preparations, school resources, counseling, and fellowship), and canned good drives. This black tie, formal event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28 beginning with a silent auction at 6 p.m. and the celebration at 7 p.m. The venue for the Gala is the Griffin Bell Golf Course and Conference Center located at 1800 S. Lee St., Americus.
“We are beyond excited about the Legacy Fundraiser Gala. We have received tons of support from the community and wonderful donations from sponsors such as STAX: Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis, Tenn.; Williamson Bros. BAR-B-Q, Marietta, Ga.; The High Museum and Park Tavern, both located in Atlanta; and Eazy Ride Auto Sales LLC, here in Americus,” said Shonta.
“This will also be a night to remember because we will recognize and honor those who have made contributions in an effort to make a difference in our community. We want to celebrate those, who like my mom, have a desire to help those in need,” added Tiss.
Shonta stated there were times when she couldn’t understand her mother’s concern for helping others, especially as they did not have much to give.
“Growing up we didn’t have much, and I can remember, particularly during my pre-teen years, arguing with my mom about giving what we didn’t have,” she said. “I couldn’t understand it then, but as I became older, I realized the importance of caring for others and giving and extending the most significant gift of all … love.”
Since Hill-Mathis’ death in 2004, Shonta, Tiss and their aunts have carried on their mother’s and sister’s legacy. They have continued to develop programs and initiatives that allow GGOL to give love, in any form, to those that need it. The Legacy Fundraiser Gala is just one way that they are paying it forward by being servants in acts of love, kindness, and support of those in need.
For more information, contact Shonta at shonta@godsgiftoflove.org. Tickets ($25) for the Gala can be purchased at O.K. Beauty & Fashions Outlet, 107 W. Jefferson St.; and at Shears Hair Salon, 511 W. Forsyth St., Building C.