The Youth Leadership Forsyth and Leadership Forsyth class of 2019 toured the City of Refuge, a faith-based nonprofit that houses and supports underprivileged youth and single-parent families, in Atlanta on Feb. 5. Student and adult participants were excited to witness the drastic changes the City of Refuge has brought to the community.
Beginning in 1997, Bruce Deel’s journey to the construction of the present-day City of Refuge began. Relocating the support programs, he had established from a church in Atlanta, Bruce introduced the former “Mission Possible” project to the 30341-zip code. The surrounding area codes of the facility were considered some of the highest in-need communities in Georgia.
In 2003, the campus became fully operational and started to optimize its 200,000-square-foot campus with the help of a land donation made by Malon Mimms, his $400,000 donation, and renovations funded by millions of dollars in donations from various organizations, religious affiliates, and corporations.
Today, the City of Refuge is set up to provide free job training in the form of mock interviews and vocational training, housing for women and families, technology access, schooling, childcare, a full pharmacy with medical exams provided by Mercy Care, hot meals from the culinary training program and partnership with 180° Kitchen and Culinary Arts Academy, and a case manager to construct a personal and individualized program to best meet the needs of every approved applicant.
The pride and joy of City of Refuge vocational training programs is the automotive repair program sponsored by NAPA, NTB, and GPC. According to the organization’s website, 100 percent of students graduated from the program’s last three cohorts with nine certifications. Every student trains for 40 hours per week for 16 weeks with online training in the mornings and in-shop during afternoons.
And the City of Refuge has plans to offer even more for the nearby community. Corporate and private support means that 5 of 8 acres will be re-roofed and repurposed into classrooms, 36 housing rooms, vocational training rooms, and technology access areas, according to staff. Among these, eligible single mothers can live with their kids in a cost-free housing space called “Eden Village.”
Each child will have access to free education via the Bright Futures Academy, preschool and daycare program offered by Feed My Lambs, Kid City after-care program, and recreational spaces for a period of six months as they live in the village.
“404 mothers, children, and single-women housing was provided for in 2017,” said staff. “Of these, 115 found employment, 235 homes were stabilized.”
Youth Leadership Forsyth members said the tour was an eye-opening experience. They said they were moved by the great need for help in the nearby community, but they were simultaneously inspired by the sheer number of ways that the City of Refuge seeks to meet those needs to enable as many people as possible to earn a job, learn new skills, become educated and live a productive life.
“My experience can only be described as insightful and transformative,” said Emma Allen, a Youth Leadership Forsyth student.