Families residing at the nonprofit HomeStretch now have a classroom space, thanks to donations from the Roswell Rotary Club and the north Fulton community.
HomeStretch is a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless north Fulton families reach stability. The nonprofit provides temporary housing, life skills education, job coaching and more to equip families with independence and work.
What started out as a conversation to help the kids at HomeStretch have better access to educational resources through some new laptops, turned into the first of its kind Rotary Learning Lab. Former Roswell Rotary president Gordon Owens sat down with HomeStretch executive Director and fellow Rotarian Talaya Parker to discuss raising funds for laptops for the children at HomeStretch. However, Owens and Parker realized the problem was not the lack of laptops. HomeStretch provides tutoring for the kids, but the tutors are off campus.
"A lot of the families are working families and its hard to get the kids to the tutoring when the tutoring's available based around their work schedule," Owens said. "A lot of the kids are too young to make their way a mile away from their house."
The Rotary Clubs of Roswell, North Fulton and Milton partnered together and were awarded a $10,000 grant from Rotary District 6900 to provide the seed funding for a classroom space on campus. In addition to the grant funds, countless partners in the trades provided everything from design, materials and construction to electrical, HVAC and interiors. The total value of the project easily tops $150,000.
"This has definitely been a labor of love," Parker said. "I was noticing some of the kids and families after work and after school, would ride their bikes or walk (to the office) just to get tutoring."
Beyond the monetary value, the true value of the Rotary Learning Lab is what it will allow HomeStretch to do to expand their educational programs for youth and adults. Currently students have tutoring available to them, but at a remote location that can be hard for kids to get to when their parents are at work.
The Rotary Learning Lab provides a place for students and tutors to meet right in their neighborhood. With the current COVID-19 situation, the lab couldn’t come at a better time. Students will be able to attend school in the lab so their parents can continue to work.
"I'm just overwhelmed with pride," Owens said. "From 18 months ago when this was a coffee table conversation to standing here getting ready to open the doors, it's just amazing."
The uses for the Rotary Learning Lab will only expand from there allowing HomeStretch to write new grant requests for additional educational programs.
"I'm just amazed at this community and what Rotarians have done in the midst of this pandemic," Parker said. "It's just phenomenal."
Parker said HomeStretch is always accepting school supplies donations, including Chromebooks. For information on how to donate, visit https://homestretch.org/donate/.