Atlanta Habitat for Humanity knows the responsibilities of home ownership can seem overwhelming – maybe even scary – for first-time homebuyers. That’s why the largest non-profit single-family homebuilder in Atlanta and Fulton County invests in comprehensive training and education programs that provide homeowners with the skills and capabilities they will need to be successful.
In addition to its well-known homebuilding program, which allows income-qualified families to buy affordable homes through non-profit, no-interest loans, the organization also supports a Repair with Kindness program, according to Jill Strickland Luse, Atlanta Habitat’s vice president for communications.
Since 2016, this program has helped qualified homeowners make critical home repairs that reduce health or safety hazards, or improve weatherization so homes can be safe, dry and accessible. The repairs - valued at $600,000 annually - include roofs, gutters, storm windows, and secured doors, and help people to live comfortably, she added. “Our critical home repair programs reach the wider community to the benefit of the whole neighborhood.”
Atlanta Habitat also now purchases blighted properties in the neighborhoods where it builds new houses. It’s part of the organization’s building-the-block strategy that further connects new homeowners with current residents in their community.
Sloane Evans, a Habitat board member and vice president of human resources at Georgia Power, shares that’s why it’s important for the company to be involved. “It directly aligns with our corporate responsibility statement that ‘we are citizens wherever we serve’ and that it is our responsibility to enhance the communities in which we engage and leave them better than they were when we came.”
For Habitat, helping to make adequate, affordable housing available to those who need it most and repairing homes takes volunteers. Each year, 12,000 – 15,000 volunteers provide more than 130,000 hours of service to build and renovate 50-60 houses and support Habitat’s ReStore and operations.
With a heart-driven desire to positively change the outcomes of youth living in economically impoverished neighborhoods and first-hand experience leading this type of initiative in her childhood neighborhood, Cheryl Livsey Bursh founded Neighborhoods Focused on African-American Youth, Inc.
To realize this change, she knew neighborhood residents – particularly parents - had to organize around their youth and establish an academic support infrastructure.
Today, NFOAAY is addressing academic, social, and emotional needs of pre-K to middle school students through Community Study Hall (CSH), an after-school program in two public housing units in Columbus, Georgia. As part of the program, students receive tutoring, homework assistance, life skill workshops, educational field trips, college visits, library sessions and more.
CSH is offered at no cost to the parents and includes homework assistance, mathematics and reading remediation, technology instruction, STEM and life skills workshops, and one-on-one instruction for low-performing students.
“Like Georgia Power, we are committed to improving the quality of life for Georgia citizens and believe that education is a key determinant for a brighter future,” Bursh said.
Program results are showing desired outcomes, too. Students that routinely participate in three or more consecutive years are graduating from high school and have a desire to attend college.
The Latin American Association had a good reason to celebrate in 2017 when 23 Cross Keys High School seniors, who had participated in the organization’s year-round program for Latino youth since sixth grade, graduated from high school.
All of the students in this program - known as the Latino Youth Leadership Academy (LYLA) - graduated, said Eliezer Velez, managing director of education. “These students never gave up. No matter their personal situation, they were able to overcome any obstacles, and they will be the first in their families to pursue higher education.”
The LYLA provides year-round programs to 320 Latino middle and high school students at six predominantly Latino schools in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties to ensure they stay in school and graduate from high school.
Georgia Power has been a supporter of the Latin American Association for several years and many employees have served as mentors, and helped address the STEM gap for Latino students.