Love & Purpose
Behind her sparkling silver rhinestone crown and her candy apple red trimmed sash is a woman with a noble purpose. For LaCrisha Burton Saba ’14, her reign as Mrs. Georgia America 2017 was more than just a pageant title. It reflected her dream to use her voice to shed light on a cause that is dear to her heart—homelessness and hunger.
A mission is born
In 2011, while on a trip to Guatemala with her husband, LaCrisha had packed their bags to hike a volcano. On a brutally hot day in a bus with no air-conditioning, the pair journeyed through villages and towns learning about local life in the small Central-American country.
On the way to the site, they entered a village where the tour guide pulled over at a gas station for everyone on board to get water.
“We stop at this gas station and these kids are begging,” says LaCrisha.
One of the boys approached the bus as the others looked on. LaCrisha reached into her backpack and gave him a sandwich. The little boy immediately ran back to the other children.
“I watch him go back and he opens this sandwich and he breaks it off. Everyone got a piece,” says LaCrisha. “It really resonated with me. Here I am in this beautiful country and you have starving children. It’s unacceptable.”
In that moment, With Love Global was born – a non-profit organization whose mission is to be a hands-on advocate for those in need. LaCrisha officially established the non- profit in 2015. Locally, nationally, and internationally, the organization provides meals, clothing, and hygiene items to the homeless and conducts drives to stock homeless shelters with food and necessities.
“Guatemala was actually one of my first initiatives. I am so proud that we have been able to successfully execute initiatives in Tanzania, in Peru, Guatemala, [and] Lebanon,” says LaCrisha with a smile.
With Love Global also has a strong presence in the local Atlanta community. Every third Sunday of the month, you will find volunteers downtown at Hurt Park feeding approximately 125 to 150 homeless individuals and families.
LaCrisha believes serving a warm meal and offering words of encouragement can drastically change a person’s outlook on the day.
“It’s more than just food,” LaCrisha says. “There are people out there that have not spoken to someone all week. A lot of times we find ourselves talking to these individuals and just really fellowshipping.”
Volunteers will sometimes pray with the homeless, offer conversation, and even help them locate housing to have a place to stay.
With L.O.V.E Global also sponsors donation drives to help stock the shelves of metro Atlanta homeless shelters with food and other necessities. Most recently, LaCrisha teamed up with another nonprofit, Hope Thru Soap. Founder Jason Winter and his team operate a 12-foot aluminum trailer that provides a no-cost, private space for the homeless to shower with dignity, in addition to offering haircuts and hygiene items.
“These guys are really my go-to because I know their hearts. I know them and I’ve volunteered with them for years, and they are doing great things in the community,” LaCrisha says.
Pageantry with a purpose
Through the non-profit, LaCrisha’s focus is to bring more awareness to the homeless, hungry, and veterans. However, early on she realized that running a nonprofit is not easy.
To recruit more volunteers and others to help promote the mission, she would need to find more exposure and a bigger platform. That’s when she decided to enter into pageantry.
“I was a hot mess my first year competing, but I researched the industry and came back very prepared the following year,”LaCrisha says.
Considered a late bloomer in the pageant world, LaCrisha took the chance to compete against married women ranging in age from 18-55 and was crowned Mrs. Georgia United States in 2016.
In 2017, she earned the title of Mrs. Georgia America, allowing her to spend a one-year reign bringing positive attention to her pageant platform, homelessness and hunger.
“With the title, you’re granted so many open doors that me knocking on as myself were not opening. So once you put on the big shiny crown, people roll out the red carpet,” LaCrisha says.
LaCrisha also had the opportunity to compete in August of 2017 in the Mrs. America pageant, where she was a semi-finalist among 50 other contestants.
“I have been able to speak in numerous schools throughout the state of Georgia, as well as Tennessee, I have greeted our nation’s heroes at the Delta Airlines Military Lounge, and I have have partnered with several nonprofits throughout the state of Georgia in the fight against hunger and homelessness, ” LaCrisha says.
Her journey to the crown proved to be a transformative experience, and at times, it compelled her to push herself to heights she had never attempted–– both physically and mentally. To this day, she credits competing in pageantry with bringing about self- awareness, ignoring negativity, and building confidence.
“As a contestant, you are given so many suggestions and critiques that you will question yourself,”LaCrisha says. “In the end, I came out victorious with the crown, as well as a new level of discipline, determination, confidence, commitment, passion, grit, strong communication skills, and even more empathy for others.”
Above all, competing in pageants became the spark to bringing greater awareness to her organization.
“Most importantly, my nonprofit – With Love Global- has grown tremendously,” LaCrisha says. “The title granted me a platform for unlimited exposure; I simply had to put in the work. I have enjoyed every second of the journey.”
Sharing the love
On June 9, 2018, LaCrisha passed on the title of Mrs. Georgia to a new winner. But the end of her reign is only the beginning to doing more to help those in need.
She has expanded the services With Love Global provides to the local community through a back-to-school drive to gather supplies for local schoolchildren.
This past year, she launched the “Adopt-A-Senior” program that partners with local nursing homes and businesses.
“We partnered with a spa in Buckhead so [the seniors] were able to get complimentary mani’s and pedi’s,” LaCrisha says. “It was absolutely amazing! I am planning to make it bigger this year and expand to the south-metro area,” LaCrisha says.
Volunteers visit and have lunch with seniors or take them out for some fun.
Besides pageantry, LaCrisha also credits the success in promoting her nonprofit to Clayton State’s marketing program. Earning her degree in marketing has allowed her to develop the organization’s website, create advertising, conduct marketing efforts, and put on events. Without those skills, LaCrisha says, With Love Global would not be where it is today.
“I wouldn’t have that knowledge without my marketing background,” LaCrisha says. “So, I am thankful for my marketing degree and all of the education that I received from Clayton State University.”
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