For the past six years, Doug "Cowboy" Elliott and his wife Robin have been handing out groceries on the 4th Wednesday of each month to "anybody in need in Wilmer," Elliott said. All those they serve learned of their generosity by word of mouth, and early in the morning on giveaway days, the family's driveway and the road leading to their house is lined with automobiles as they provide food to about 200 families each month.
Cowboy Elliott, 66, came to this time in his life when he realized his true calling through rough times, bad decisions and a series of what he considers miracles.
"I'm not going to lie; I used to be a crook," Elliot said of his early life. "But," he continued, "the Bible says--and I'm paraphrasing--that if you stole, and you got saved, you will become a giver."
Elliott did not elaborate on his past, but a giver he has become.
The giving and the miracles started around 2008-2009. The Elliotts, bent on doing good works, sold their home and, Elliott said, "God provided us with another, rent-free."
When they ran out of funds for their giveaways, Cowboy Elliott said, "I prayed, 'God, I need a millionaire; send me a millionaire.'"
The next day, he said, "Melvin Pierce (a painting contractor in Semmes) called and asked me to meet him at Waffle House." After a conversation in which Elliott explained his ministry, Pierce gave him $500 in cash, a practice he continued until he died, Elliott said.
And the miracles didn't stop there.
One day, when the Elliotts had spent down to their last $20 on groceries to give away, they were running short of gasoline and needed to stop for a few gallons to get them home. When Elliott started to pull into one gas station, "God told me, 'Don't stop at the first station; go to the next one." They got $17 worth of fuel and when Robin went inside to pay the bill, "A man pulled up next to me," Doug Elliott said. "He didn't buy any gas; he just handed me a $100 bill, told me to use it for what I needed it for and drove away." Truly a miracle, Elliott said.
The banana box full of groceries that the Elliotts give to each "customer" contains the equivalent of about seven WalMart grocery bags and includes canned and dry goods, frozen meat, bread and sweets.
Most of what they distribute they purchase at Bay Area Food Bank with donations they receive through the small congregation at the church Robin Elliot's father pastors. They also receive financial help from friends Billy and Bobby Walker and Ray and Jolene McDuffie and, of course, use their own financial resources. And one volunteer, Bo Black, faithfully helps with the distribution, loading groceries into the automobiles of the elderly and handicapped.
The Elliotts do not question or judge how needy the folks are who show up at their home on the 4th Wednesday of the month. "That's not our call," Doug Elliott said.