Breakthrough: LaTonya Gates

Posted by: Gerald Bell | July 27, 2020

DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative

LaTonya Gates (Atlanta 2019) admits she became weary of people who only prayed for issues in the Grove Park community but were not willing to offer any tangible assistance. For years, this beloved community, with a population of 5,000, has suffered from a lack of food because residents won’t find a grocery store or pharmacy within five miles. This problem has escalated now that the coronavirus is impacting employment, and local food pantries are seeing their shelves clear faster than ever.

On a mission to improve the food situation for struggling families in Grove Park, LaTonya has launched a neighborhood resource center called Claudia’s House. The local program is providing food, hygiene items, cooked meals, and more to the community that some have labeled a “food desert.”

“I am a firm believer that faith without works is dead,” said LaTonya. “So many times, I've seen organizations and people with more than enough resources to make changes extend prayers instead of using the funds (and other resources) they have to help make an immediate change.”

Since the pandemic, LaTonya’s organization, PAWKids, has received an overflow of food and financial donations from the likes of Coca Cola, Jackson Spalding, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Ziest Foundation, Desire Street Ministries, and even high-profile rappers, T.I. and Killer Mike. Three days a week, Claudia’s House is open to Grove Park residents who complete an application to receive meals. In addition, volunteers from PAWKids deliver meals to those who are unable to leave their homes.

“There has been not one thing I've done alone,” offers LaTonya, who is grateful for her long list of partners. “God will make a way for your vision if it aligns with His plan and your work ethic. We are only a vessel for what God wanted for this community.”

Claudia’s House gets its name from LaTonya’s grandmother, Claudia Kemp, who raised her and 13 other children in her house. “She took care of the whole community,” LaTonya stated. “She didn’t have much, but she would take a little and make so much out of it. She saved us.”

When it comes to experiencing breakthrough, LaTonya insists, “Change is inevitable. You cannot be stuck in one way of service, one way of doing things, or one way of seeing your mission. You must move with the times and stay thirsty for a solution to the world’s or your community's greatest needs.”

Learn more about the work LaTonya is doing in Atlanta at www.pawkids.org.