7345 Red Oak Road, Union City, GA 30291 | 770-964-3301 |

Volunteer Stories

Shavonda & Roc

A FAMILY REUNIFICATION STORY

Shavonda & Roc share their family’s journey to reunification with help from the Children’s Village Residential Program; along with comments from Jill & Kelvin Thompson, Human Services Professionals at Christian City for more than three decades.

Roc (Dad):
We met at Marietta High School in 10th grade.

Shavonda (Mom):
I was a teen parent in high school, but he was always there for us, since day one.

Roc:
We started struggling about three or four years ago,

and we did a lot of shuffling around back-and-forth from Union City to Rome to Cedartown to Douglasville, Georgia, just moving around and getting a temporary roof here and there. The idea of dropping your kids off somewhere while you go off and try to get started was a little much for me. I couldn’t come to terms with the idea, but Shavonda told me that it really wasn’t worth the way we were struggling. She took the big step by coming to Christian City and asking for help.

Shavonda:
I learned that not everybody is going to help when you need help. Not everybody is going to be there like you would think. I was cornered at that time, so I decided after that last weekend I spent with my kids in a hotel room that I would come and visit Christian City and at least just see the place. I didn’t have any more money. They needed food.

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I just wanted to make sure that whatever I could provide they would have. Long story short…..we came to Christian City and I was scared and devastated. I have to admit that! I came to Christian City looking for any reason to say “No, I can’t leave my kids there; no, I can’t do this; and no, this is not the right thing.” But, when I got here, it was gorgeous and beautiful. Kids were outside playing everywhere.

I got to meet with the social worker, Kelvin, and talk to him and cry to him like a big baby, and I felt terrible. I felt like I was giving my kids away. I felt horrible. I don’t know if it was Jill, but somebody came in the room and they just comforted me, handed me tissues and water, and told me “You know, we’re not trying to take your kids from you. We’re simply trying to be your hands and feet until you can get back on your feet.” That helped me feel so much better. I don’t know what it was about that statement, but that is really what made me stop and realize “I can do this.”

Kelvin (Human Services Professional – Children’s Village):
When Shavonda approached us about placing her children here, it was an emotional struggle for her. I remember that she would have emotional ups and downs and she would walk away at times feeling confident that this was the right decision and then second-guess herself, because she’s a mother and she doesn’t want to leave her children unattended someplace where she’s not present herself.

In the struggles that I experienced with Shavonda, there were times when I could listen to her and talk to her about those emotional struggles, and then offer a spiritual solution. I think that was very helpful at the time. It seemed to bring a lot of relief to her whenever we would sit down and talk and then also pray, oftentimes over the telephone, just to help her know she was on the right track and making the right decision and then she was re-motivated again.

One of the things that we try to hold onto at the Children’s Village is a wholistic approach to what children need. We are not just a place to house the children and provide for the physical needs, but also the spiritual needs, the emotional needs, the social needs, and the vocational needs. We look at all of it and try to address everything that’s needed for the child while they are here.

Jill (Human Services Professional – Children’s Village):
Family is one of the core parts of our program. We serve families and we want to give the children placed with us a family to be in, which is the house parent mom and dad family figure. They run their home much as any other family would. Kids come home from school. They have dinner time. They might play basketball. They have a bedtime. Meal times are in the dining room and everybody’s in one place sharing that meal together.

The model for Christian City is “it takes a village,” and it does. It’s not just Kelvin and me. It’s not just the birth mom or the house parents. It’s not just the kids. It really takes that team of people working together to bring the family together to bring them home. That’s our goal.

Kelvin:
We work extensively with these families to get them back together again and to give them the services and resources that they need in order to come back together again in a healthier manner.

Jill:
Mom was able to put her children’s needs first. Even though she wanted the kids to be home, she was able to say, “Let’s wait till school is out and then let me come and get them.” So we planned for that. The kids were aware of that plan, and mom worked toward that plan, and it worked out really well. We worked toward increasing visitations so the kids could become acclimated to their new home environment as well as ours. So it worked out really well.

Shavonda:
When I called Christian City, I actually got genuine, honest help. I could show people I was serious. I wanted to take this opportunity to get on my feet, get my kids, and get my home in order. I was serious and they took me seriously. I really appreciated that. I’m going to school to get my degree, my bachelor’s degree. it’s a dream come true. A year ago, I was living in my car. I would have never guessed I would be at this point today. That’s amazing.

Jill:
Shavonda was always invested in coming to the care plan meetings. Sometimes parents are not able to make it to the meetings for different reasons. She made it a point to be at the meetings so we could discuss the goals of her children while they were here. I just appreciated her always being there for her kids. They might’ve been with us, but she was always there for them.

Shavonda:
They made sure the kids were learning and developing. When my son got here, he would barely talk, and he had issues with reading. And math he didn’t understand all together. He’s at a point now where he’s better with communicating; his reading is improving; and he even understands math. He hasn’t caught up entirely, but he’s made significant progress, which I can honestly say was because of Christian City. They were amazing.

Jill:
it was very important to Shavonda to supply the needs she could for her children. She didn’t leave it all up to us. From the beginning, she was self-motivated and really invested in her children and in wanting to get them back home. We saw that by her attending school. She went back to school to get a degree. She established an apartment for them, so that they had a place to go when they started going home every weekend. Each child had a room. She fixed their rooms up and took pictures. It was a really fun process to have them make that return in the last few months.

Saniyah (daughter):
I’m happy to have my family back.

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Fayetteville Christian Church

SUPPORTING THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN CITY

“…the church is the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Christian City offers us a wonderful venue to express that kind of love.”

I’m Andrew Higle, and I’m the preacher at Fayetteville Christian Church. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to tell you about the wonderful relationship that can exist between churches and Christian City.

Christian City gives the church I serve so many wonderful opportunities to pray and give and volunteer and serve. Christian City really does make the church to be a better place.

Coming from the Midwest, I had no paradigm to understand a place like Christian City. Yes, it’s a retirement village. It is a nursing home. But, it also has a children’s village and a place for at-risk teens. And Christian City has a wide range of care from physical therapy to hospice care. It truly is a city.

When I first came to Fayetteville Christian Church, I learned that one of our official missions was Christian City. But, I had no appreciation for what that meant. I’m used to a mission were you just give a monthly gift, but with Christian City…

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…it’s really more like a spiritual friendship. As with every friendship, there’s a blessing that goes both ways. We are a blessing to Christian City, and Christian City has been a blessing to our church members.

In fact, Christian City has become a gold standard for me. I would choose a mission that is so big that it engages everybody, both young and old. I think of a couple like Brian and Barbara who along with other people in the church met together and made lunches in appreciation for the staff at Christian City. Most recently, they brought sack lunches to the volunteers who were working to renovate and repurpose a children’s village cottage. I think that is practical way the church can bless Christian City and they’ll be blessed by using their gifts as well.

So what I’m talking about is not just bringing meals to Christian City, which is important, but volunteering in all capacities. We have students wheeling residents to Sunday afternoon worship services. We have people volunteering in the chaplain’s department and making visits to residents and offering prayers. We have church members serving on Christian City’s board. We’ve had work crews volunteer for a day and some members have volunteered in the thrift shop. Members have volunteered at Christian City for team building, too.

At all levels, we have had our church members involved in the mission at Christian City. I think it’s a beautiful thing when the mission relationship becomes so close that it kind of becomes part of the church’s DNA. I’m a preacher, so I hesitate to say that creating this kind of relationship is easy. But, it really is easy to partner with Christian City and the benefits are innumerable.

Of course, we give money, too, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, we believe that the church is the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Christian City offers us a wonderful venue to express that kind of love. Christian City makes the church to be a better place.

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Terry Chapman

VOLUNTEER & PHILANTHROPIST

the people at Christian City are like a second family to me.”

My primary community service was dedicated to Habitat for Humanity for about 25 years. I worked on 155 houses for Habitat over the years, and it was that association that led me to Christian City.

The person who was heading the Southern Crescent Habitat chapter in Jonesboro at the time came over to meet with the development director at Christian City to discuss a home construction project at the Children’s Village. The Habitat director recommended me, and I first worked on the construction of the Crisis Intervention cottage at the Children’s Village, a home used primarily for the Safe Place Runaway & Homeless Youth Program. On one big construction day, employee volunteers from Georgia Power, Delta Air Lines, and Square Foot Ministries showed up. Each group started in a corner and we met in the middle. It was beautiful!

Later, I managed the building of the food storage room, swimming pool and amphitheatre at the Children’s Village. The outdoor amphitheatre had already been designed, but the project was waiting for someone who knew how to build it. That’s what I had been doing my whole career, so it was “no hill for a climber,” as they say. Afterwards, I moved over to renovating about 50 homes in the active senior living neighborhoods, and then we repurposed a former children’s cottage into a recreation center for use by senior

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The Children’s Village is probably the primary reason I volunteer at Christian City. The idea of helping children who have no other place to go is a real joy to me. I am helping to provide a home for the children, and that’s fulfilling.

I am fortunate to have enough so that I can contribute to causes I like, and I can’t think of anything more deserving of support than kids without a place to live. I know the people who are running Christian City, and I am confident any money I contribute will be well and fairly spent. To support people and a place that protects kids is the highest and best use of my money and time.

I enjoy working with the people at Christian City. They have been kind and respectful of my skills and abilities as a professional engineer, land surveyor and building contractor. I have some skills that they don’t have available to them on the campus, and those skills are transferable. This is what I enjoy doing – managing large scale projects with lots of pieces that need to come together.

Since I have been volunteering and managing construction projects at Christian City for a number of years now, I usually have another project lined up by the time we finish the current one. And that’s okay with me, because I like to stay busy.

A few years ago, Kim Mills-Smith, a friend of mine and Habitat for Humanity volunteer who is also a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, began helping me with design choices for some of the construction projects at Christian City – paint colors, tile, mirrors, etc. She took an interest in renovating and repurposing a former children’s cottage that had not been in use since the new Children’s Village moved to another part of the Christian City campus.

The original Delta-Jim Turner Memorial cottage was built in 1972 and funded by employees of Delta Air Lines. To make a long story short, Kim Mills-Smith and Michel Aletraris, with Delta Tech Ops, took charge of the cottage renovation project and approached Delta about recruiting volunteers and donating the money needed. Delta Air Lines funded the renovation, and 20 to 30 Delta employee volunteers showed up every work day for several weeks to complete the project.

My volunteer role at Christian City is project manager, which means I pull people together to get the work done – some who know what they are doing and some who don’t, but all volunteers are willing to work. It’s a lot of fun. All you have to do is point out something that needs to be done and they jump on it. The biggest pressure on me from a project management standpoint is always two things: one is to make sure I’ve got all the materials needed, and the second is to make sure I’ve got something to keep everybody busy.

On the Delta-Jim Turner Memorial cottage renovation, the Delta Tech Ops employees jumped right in from the first day. We removed the roof, put up new trusses, and replaced HVAC, plumbing, electrical and drywall. Some of the floors were also replaced. We did a complete overhaul. It’s all brand new now, and we rededicated the 1972 cottage in May 2019. It was great to see so many people committed to making sure the project was completed

The renovated cottage is now a duplex home with two entrances. It has been repurposed for use by both the Children & Family Programs and Active Senior residents at Christian City. Jim Turner’s daughter, Jane Turner Hannon, and several retired Delta employees who had been involved with the original cottage building came to the rededication ceremony. It was special to meet those people and hear more about how the original cottage came to be built.

At the project kick-off event, Jane Turner Hannon said her father believed in developing relationships and that we all have a responsibility to other people. She said he lived out that belief through all aspects of his life, at Delta and in his church. Kim Mills Smith said the renovation project was creating a vision of hope for the next 47 years. I agree with that, and I like to think Jim Turner would be pleased with the renovation and repurpose of the cottage we just completed. He would have enjoyed seeing all the employee volunteers coming together for a good cause. I’m glad to have been able to be a part of the Delta-Jim Turner legacy at Christian City.

When I’m not working on a construction project, I like to make sure I’ve got something to do to keep busy. Usually I’m in my workshop at home turning wooden bowls, spoon carving, or working on other wood carving projects. It’s something to move to when everything else is caught up; and people seem to appreciate the pieces that I give to them.

My great grandfather was a buggy maker, so there’s history in my woodturning interest. He had a buggy shop in the backyard at his home in Crawfordville, near Augusta. That’s where I grew up. My dad was a dairy farmer and my mother was a school teacher. I graduated second in my high school class and applied to only one college, Georgia Tech, where I majored in civil engineering.

I suppose I’m high energy. I don’t normally take vacations; I take woodworking classes instead. I like to cultivate the myth that I can make anything I want!

Years ago, I had the idea to have the family put together and decorate a gingerbread house after the big Thanksgiving dinner, and that became an annual tradition. The idea took hold and we started making gingerbread houses for groups. One year I made eleven gingerbread houses!

I enjoy volunteering at Christian City and keep going back because the people appreciate what I do and respect my work and skills. Through my work, I’m able to bring a contribution that this non-profit doesn’t already have, but needs. It’s a very fulfilling association, and the people at Christian City are like a second family to me.

As I watch retired people moving into Christian City, it’s a real pleasure to help make the transition to retirement living a little more joyous and easier for them. I recognize that one day I’ll be making that transition, and hopefully someone will be there to make it easier for me, too.

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