To provide help to those in the Athens GA area who are experiencing homelessness, to keep them safe and
comfortable, to help them achieve self-sufficiency, to assist them in achieving their goals and to advocate for
their best interests on an individual and collective basis.
We envision a Georgia where each person has a clean and safe place to live, where they can maximize their
health and self-sufficiency, live a life of their own choosing and find purpose and fulfilment in life.
During the winter months of 1998, a woman named Ann Clark noticed the Salvation Army’s homeless shelter had an overflow of men standing outside each night. In response to this community need, she partnered with St. James United Methodist Church to host an overnight emergency overflow shelter during the cold season. It was originally named the Community Overflow Shelter, but it was the birth of our Bigger Vision. The church leadership allowed her to use church vans to bring up to 14 homeless men from outside the Salvation Army to their fellowship hall for a meal and a safe, warm place to sleep that was chaperoned by volunteers. Within the next year, the number of guests served grew up to 22 per night, and mats were also acquired for the men to sleep on, which provided a level of comfort. In 2001, Ann Clark recruited Barbara and Richard Andersen to become the co-directors. They spent over a decade working with incredible volunteers to run the community winter shelter.
In 2004, the shelter moved due to a fire at St. James UMC to Cornerstone Church. However, due to the effort it took churches to host our guests, the location of the shelter moved to various churches in downtown Athens for the next several years, searching for new locations during each off-season. Despite the lack of a permanent location, The Bigger Vision of Athens was finally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2007 with the help of volunteers from St. James and many other local churches. This enabled Bigger Vision to have a sustainable plan for continuation through a board of directors, as long as the need is present. Also, in 2012, we were blessed to have a generous donation in the form of a forgiven mortgage for our permanent building location at 95 North Avenue in downtown Athens.
Through all of these location changes, the organization survived on the tireless efforts of our amazing volunteers. It grew beyond the walls of St. James and every other temporary location through the involvement of our dedicated community members serving as mentors, overnight volunteers, meal providers, and board members. Due to collective efforts of the supporters of Bigger Vision, in 2013, we were able to officially hire our first Executive Director, which enabled our organization to have a higher level of consistency and closer relationships with guests. Since then, our paid staff has grown to 5, including 4 team members who oversee the shelter each night.
This growth has enabled Bigger Vision, in 2017, to become a year-round shelter for up to 35 guests each night and began our Abundant Life program. With the help of our staff, over 10,000 meals donated annually, over 7,500 volunteer hours donated annually, and over 6,000 nights paid for annually, it is our hope that our guests will be positively impacted by their experience with us and will have the opportunity to return to being self-sufficient, productive citizens.
We have an optimistic outlook on the future with all of the support of our staff, volunteers, donors, and the Athens-Clarke County Community. We have created a new process for volunteering which improves the service we provide in the Overnight Shelter Program, added a monthly newsletter to engage with our volunteers and donors, and introduced a partnership with University of Georgia to bring in interns.
With this in mind, our future goals include: