SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s a small operation that nothing — not rain, heat nor freezing temperatures — seems to stop. Every month, without fail, volunteers with Divine Rest, Incorporated pack up donations and visit homeless camps throughout Savannah.
Georgette Jackson — the founder and CEO — is behind the idea. Her organization plans weekend trips to camps, among other events throughout the year. Her weekend missions always start with a prayer.
“Heavenly Father, we thank these people for coming out,” says a leader of one of Savannah’s homeless camps, while he holds hands with and leans close to about 10 volunteers.
Jackson organizes the volunteers and fills trucks with donations of water, blankets and other clothing items. Her efforts take hours. But she helps, despite having a full-time job during the week and a responsibility to take care of her grandchildren.
Divine Rest, Incorporated also helps people transition into permanent housing. People know volunteers will come — whatever the conditions — and they are always more than ready to receive the donations.
One reason may be because Jackson says every donation comes without judgment or shame.
“If God created a pure heart in anyone, He created it in [Jackson],” said her friend, Selma Brown Bess. “She’s selfless and she’s a great friend to have.”
When you think about people who are homeless, you do not often think about the dire need for water. Jackson says she does. She calls it a commodity.
“They’re so happy that somebody is taking the time to sit and talk to them and give them that quality time,” said Jackson. “And that’s important. We all want that.”
Volunteers focus their efforts on single women. But they say they are not exclusionary. Jackson is typically joined by her friends, members of the community and her granddaughter, Caitlin Jackson. The two live together in Savannah.
“A lot of them start to cry,” said Caitlin Jackson. “They felt like they were forgotten. To come here and to see them brighten up, and to hear their testimonies is very heartwarming.”
The experience is so heartwarming, you will never catch Jackson without a smile. And because of that, you would not know that she is working through intense pain and loss.
Jackson says three of her children have died. When he was two months old, her son died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Two of her daughters died from cancer.
“It’s been hard. But loss has given me the strength to keep pressing on… God gave me this mission to help others and so losing has really helped me gain,” said Jackson.
Jackson now takes care of her daughters’ children — her grandchildren — and one says she raises them with the same sense of duty to the community.
“[My grandmother] always says that’s what God told her to do,” said Caitlyn. “So she just follows Him and obeyed Him and here we are!”
People who know Jackson say she has always had a love for people. It is why the group’s mission is much bigger than a handout.
“She loves people no matter what walk of life they’re from. It doesn’t matter your status. She just loves people. And that’s the type of light she gives off.”Selma Brown Bess, friend of Georgette Jackson
The mission is about respect and a genuine willingness to see others succeed. Jackson says the group calls everyone ‘neighbor.’ And they all take time to understand people who — like Jackson once did — need support.
“Sometimes they feel ostracized. They feel like they’re being misjudged or people just don’t understand why they’re here…and so we just want to get to know them,” said Jackson.
In the process of helping others, Jackson has made an impact on the people she works with to make a difference in the community.
“It’s always good to know there are other people who care like you do. To see them give up their time, their resources and their energy, and come out here in the cold and the heat and the rain… it blesses my heart,” said Jackson.
Jackson was nominated by the community for WSAV’s Remarkable Women contest. She was chosen as one of four finalists. The winner will go to New York City for a special reception.
News 3’s Kelly Antonacci will feature each finalist on Tuesday in the weeks leading up to March, which is International Women’s month. Click here for each woman’s inspiring story.