More than a decade ago, while on a visit to Chicago, Trenessa Beene Pearson saw something that touched her heart – a man walking down the street wearing cardboard boxes in place of shoes.
The Suwanee resident resolved to do something when she returned home to help the underprivileged and underserved, but as most of us do at one time or another, she put off her plans for a later date.
“I was procrastinating,” said Pearson, matter-of-factly.
Fast-forward to 2018, when Pearson began a 91-day fast, eschewing bread, sweets, dairy and meat. It was at that time that Pearson began what she calls “my journey.”
“Most people fast for 21 days but God told me to do 91 days and I was like, ‘Really, God?” the Mississippi native said. “That’s when I began my journey.”
During this same time, Pearson’s sister was the recipient of a life-giving lung transplant and it was at that time that Pearson decided to put her long-held plans into action.
“During the time I was on the journey, I started a 501(c)(3), I became a notary and started doing stuff that was already in me to do,” she said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew I just had to help.”
Pearson, who moved to Gwinnett County in 2000, established Suwanee-based Transforming You Inc., what she terms as her ministry. Developed to offer assistance to homeless women and children, Transforming You has been active in the community, hosting a “Breaking the Cycles” conference, a Christmas Eve event called “The Gift of Giving” and a toy giveaway, and fundraisers for shoes and other necessities.
For the second consecutive year, Transforming You will host a Thanksgiving Day dinner from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at George Pierce Park in Suwanee with plans to feed the homeless and anyone else who would like a holiday meal. Last year’s inaugural event attracted some 100 diners and about 30 volunteers, but Pearson is well aware that this year’s dinner will be a bit different logistically.
“I started having small events and when Thanksgiving came last year, I felt I needed to do something in George Pierce Park because it’s not far from me,” she said. “… Everything went well last year. This year, due to COVID, we have to observe social distancing and all the CDC protocols, so there can be no more than 50 people in the building at one time.
“We’ll be providing hot meals and I’m giving out gift cards and toiletries and items that people less fortunate than you and me can always use.”
Pearson, who said she received assistance from Publix, Costco, Sam’s Club, Ted’s Montana Grill and donations from fellow churchgoers, family and friends to put on the Thanksgiving luncheon, added that tables of four will be set up to direct social distancing, although families will be allowed to sit together.
When asked how it felt to provide a little sunshine (and nourishment) for those who might otherwise go without, Pearson said, “I feel amazing. That’s my ministry…I grew up rather quickly and I always had the heart to give. It makes me feel awesome to know I’ve helped someone eat or get some soap to take a shower or get something they don’t have.”
While the Thanksgiving meal is currently her primary focus, Pearson said she’s also searching for a brick-and-mortar destination for a planned shelter for homeless women and children.
“I don’t have a location yet,” said Pearson, who holds membership in the Gwinnett Coalition, is a life coach and an ASD1 teacher at North Gwinnett Middle School. “I’ve been going since 2018 and I’m looking for a place to house homeless women and children. We go to different places like extended stay hotels, senior-assisted living places and we basically set up shop.
“We’ll set up a tent and have shoes and clothes and backpacks and toiletries and we serve food. We got to them because we don’t have a place. We just go wherever it’s needed and just set.
“Due to the pandemic, we shut down for two weeks and I finally said, ‘OK, guys we’re going to pray and God is going to cover us with his blood and we’re going to be just fine. Put the masks and the gloves on and let’s go’ – and we did.”