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How Jesse's House hopes to help at-risk female youth for another 20 years
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Karen Carroll, executive director of Jesse’s House, speaks during the nonprofit’s 20th Anniversary Gala on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at 6140 Events. - photo by Brian Paglia

For 20 years, Jesse’s House has offered emergency shelter for female youth.

On Tuesday, the local nonprofit held an anniversary gala at 6140 Events to celebrate the milestone while also honor the first group of donors to a new fundraising program that the organization hopes will enable it to continue to serve the community.

One by one, Josh Lowe, an assistant principal at Forsyth Central High School and president of Jesse’s House board, read the names of local residents and organizations who became founding members of the “Friends of Jesse’s House” donor society. Each committed to donating $200 annually to the organization.

“Hopefully, it will be a sustainable program for Jesse’s House that will provide annual resources,” Lowe said.

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Carrie Patterson poses for a picture during the Jesse’s House 20th Anniversary Gala on Tuesday at 6140 Events. Patterson and several others in attendance were honored as the first to give to the nonprofit’s new annual charitable program called “Friends of Jesse’s House.” - photo by Brian Paglia

Jesse’s House was started in 1998 after a Kennesaw State University study identified a need in the county for an emergency shelter for at-risk girls ages 7 to 17. It was originally called the Forsyth County Youth Shelter. Those first residents lived in a donated two-bedroom house for a maximum of 90 days.

Today, the organization can serve up to 12 female youth, and each gets its own bedroom. The facility now has a library/computer lab, fitness room, game room, basketball court and common area, and residents are allowed to stay until more permanent housing is found. In 20 years, the organization has served more than 900 female youth from more than 21 counties in Georgia, according to its website.

To stay open another 20 years, Karen Carroll, the nonprofit’s executive director, knew Jesse’s House needed a new program to provide consistent and dependable funding.

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Josh Lowe, assistant principal at Forsyth Central High School and president of the board of Jesse’s House, speaks during the nonprofit’s 20th Anniversary Gala on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, at 6140 Events. - photo by Brian Paglia

A few months ago, Carroll and Jesse’s House’s board conceived of the “Friend of Jesse’s House” program and set a goal to raise $20,000 by the end of the year.

Carroll has only been with Jesse’s House for a little over a year, but she recognized that Jesse’s House’s longevity required a committed community.

“They need our support to get through it,” Carroll said. “We tell the girls, ‘This doesn’t define you. This isn’t what your future is going to be. This is just a temporary difficulty that you’re in right now, and there are certain things you can do to make sure your life is successful.’”