Combating Summer Slide in Refugee Youth

 

The weather is warming up - a sure sign that summer is just around the corner! Soon children will set aside their books and papers and soak in the lazy days of summer. While summer is a well deserved break from school work, students of all ages often experience a loss in retention of many of the concepts learned over the year. Summer can be especially difficult for refugee children who tend to struggle both academically and socially. The biggest impact is often on their English skills. Most refugee students speak their native language while at home, so it’s easy to lose some of the skills and knowledge they’ve gained if they aren’t practicing English everyday.

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To help combat this, Inspiritus’ Savannah office offers a day camp program for school age refugee children. Last year was our first year offering the program to the refugees we serve, and we received positive feedback from the children’s teachers. The camp is held mornings June 3 through July 25, and this year we are expecting around 20 children from various countries, including Afghanistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea.

At summer camp, the children are able to improve their English as they connect with other kids who are experiencing many of the same struggles they’ve gone through. Throughout the summer, the kids take part in journaling exercises, fun hands-on science lessons, math problem solving games and other activities designed to keep them learning while having fun. We also have many fun field trips planned throughout the summer The kids will be visiting the African Art Museum, where they’ll view art from many of their home countries, Butter Bean Beach, the Crab Shack on Tybee Island, Oatland Island, the Fire Station and more.

Last year’s campers cooling off on a hot day.

Last year’s campers cooling off on a hot day.

Be sure to follow our Facebook page for updates throughout the summer!


 

Inspiritus' 21 Century Afterschool Program Gives Refugee and Immigrant Teens A Boost Toward Success

 

Adapting to both the academic and social expectations of high school is one of the most difficult transitions for a refugee or immigrant teen. Inspiritus’ Afterschool program provides the support many teens need to be successful in school and go on to pursue higher education or embark on a career following graduation.

 
 
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Ali is one of the teens enrolled in Inspiritus’ 21st Century Afterschool program at Clarkston High School.  Originally from Afghanistan, Ali and his older brother traveled to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa while their parents remained in their home country. Ali works hard in school trying to maintain his 3.0 GPA. While he excels in math and science, language arts has been quite difficult for him. Our staff at Inspiritus’ Afterschool Program have focused much of their work with him on increasing his knowledge and comprehension of the subject. Since he first started at the Afterschool Program two years ago, the staff has worked with both him and his language arts teacher to help ensure he understands each assignment and that he grasps the more complex literary concepts. The teacher was able to provide extra credit assignments to help Ali become more confident in his abilities and raise his grade.

In addition to his rigorous school work, Ali works at a part time job in order to help cover his and his brother’s household expenses. Juggling his work schedule and school workload was a struggle, and he began to fall behind in his classes. Through tutoring and school liaison support available through the Afterschool Program, Ali learned to better manage his time to complete his assignments by their due dates.  

At one point in the school year, Ali and his brother lost a large portion of their income when Ali’s hours were cut due to the seasonal nature of the work. Staff at the afterschool program were able to connect him to a local business that was hiring. The employer conducted the job interview with Ali at the school during program hours.  The employer was eager to hire him and agreed to schedule him only during the weekends.  Now Ali is able to concentrate on school during the week while supporting himself and his brother on the weekend.

This year’s program is wrapping up as school comes to a close for the year. To mark the end of the Afterschool Program, students will be honored at an awards ceremony and will be treated to an Atlanta United game to celebrate their hard work over the school year! Congrats to all of our Afterschool Program students for a job well done. We applaud your dedication to learning, growing and improving!

*Stock photography used to protect identities.

 

John and Valerie Live Out Their Faith Through Fostering

 

John and Valerie Butler have been foster parents with Inspiritus since 2016. John Butler is the pastor at Covenant Life Church in Bremen, GA. Three families in his church are also foster families with Inspiritus along with many adoptive families, and relatives caring for their children.

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When the Bulters’ daughter graduated high school, they felt that God was calling them to open their home to children in need and started exploring the idea of becoming foster parents. They contact Inspiritus, then LSG, and began to work diligently through the approval process to ready their hearts and their home for foster children. Both of them knew the time and energy it would take to care for foster children, but neither of them fully understood the emotional impact children would have on both of them.

In the summer of 2016 the family accepted their first placement of two brothers. Early on in their placement, the family quickly realized that both boys had more behavioral and mental health issues than anyone initially knew about. The family went to work finding the best therapist, psychiatrist, and specialist in their area to serve these children. They worked together to take the children to multiple appointments per week along with sports and church activities. Through this all, they handled everything with amazing grace and love for these children.

Within a few months it become apparent that these children would not be able to return home with their biological family. The Butler’s did not feel called to adopt these children. However, they had many late conversations with them about adoption and how the right family would come along that was meant for just them. Just as the Butler’s said, an adoptive family was found late in 2017 and the Butler’s worked with the adoptive family to make it a smooth transition. The boys still call the Butler family a few times per year and have come to stay for a long weekend last summer.

Last summer, the Butler family welcomed a sibling group of four in their home last summer with ages ranging from 5 to 16 years of age. Although the stress was increased with additional children, the Butler’s managed day in and day out to provide nurturing and individualized care to each child in their home. Their schedule is often hectic with specialized therapies, medical appointments, sports, and after school activities, but the Butlers continue to provide the love and care the children need.

Late last year one of the children had to be moved from their home because he was in need of more intensive services than their community could provide. Shortly, the unthinkable happened. The boy took his own life. The Butlers were devastated. However, they had to manage their grief so they could support the three siblings in their home though their brother’s death. With the support of their church, community, and faith in God they managed to all come together to grief and move forward. Their strength through this tragedy was incredible.

The Butlers have risen to every challenge that foster care has thrown at them since day one. When they began this process they had no idea what obstacles they would face and the trials they would encounter. However, they continue this journey with faithful hearts and a big smile. Their church has a thriving foster care ministry and they are always looking for ways to help. Many foster parents in their church were involved in the local Foster Parent Association meetings. So when the association approached them about using their church as a meeting spot for local meetings, they enthusiastically said yes!

We often sit back in awe of this family and their commitment to the children that they serve. We are so grateful to be partners with them through this journey.

 

Rising from the Ashes

 
 
 
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Tragedy struck one of Inspiritus' foster families when the family’s home was severely damaged in a house fire early this month. The Peacock family have welcomed three energetic boys ages 15, 14 and 8 into their home, providing a caring, stable home for them as well as the couple’s adopted son. When the family received a call from a neighbor one Sunday morning while on their way to church, they returned to their neighborhood and found their house engulfed in flames as a team of firefighters worked to contain the fire and minimize damage. While they were relieved that no one was hurt, the couple worried about how they would recover and how they would provide for the boys in their care. With most of their possessions ruined and nowhere to live, they were concerned that the boys would have to be moved to a different foster home.

After learning about the fire, Inspiritus’ top priority was providing safety and security to the foster family.  Knowing that the Peacocks were having such a positive influence on the three boys, we wanted to ensure that the boys would stay with the family and avoid another traumatic disruption in their life.

With a Disaster Response team already in place in the southwest region, our staff acted quickly to assist the family with finding temporary housing and securing other basic needs. In a few short hours, our team was able to assist in arranging a short-term stay in a hotel as well as providing basic necessities such as food, hygiene items, clothing and school supplies. Within just a few hours, the Inspiritus disaster recovery team also began helping them with their insurance claim, seeking out furniture donations and searching for rental home to accommodate their large family.

 In the following week, Inspiritus helped secure a fully furnished rental property, close enough that boys will be able to continue at their current schools, to live in temporarily while their home is being repaired. To relieve some of the financial burden, Inspiritus was able to pay their first and last month’s rent on the home. Inspiritus’ disaster team also began clean up on the home, removing the ruined items and salvaging the few items that they could.

The family has been blessed by the outpouring of support from the local community and beyond.

“Through our team work and network of organizations and ministries this was a beautiful display of God’s promise in Isaiah 61:3,” says Sabrina More, Disaster Recovery Case Manager, Inspiritus. “He gave this family a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

The Red Cross, Friendship United Methodist Church and First Baptist of Albany helped provide the hotel rooms for two weeks while Inspiritus located a rental home. Cuttliff Grove Baptist Church provided food for the family, and Mattress Firm and City Care donated book bags with school supplies.  Clothing, restaurant gift cards, and other household goods were donated by Calvary Baptist Church in Albany. A local department store donated gift cards for the children to purchase additional clothing. Brooks furniture has donated beds for each of the four children. Nativity Lutheran Church in Austell, Georgia, who are longstanding supporters of our disaster recovery work, provided gift cards for the family to use as need.  One of our foster parents, Mr. Longstreet, offered his assistance along with volunteer firefighters from Tifton, Ga. to help with debris removal from the home.

Our Inspiritus family and the Peacock family feel so blessed at the support and prayers that have covered this family during this time of crisis. Because these partners and supporters helped provide them with many of the basics and assisted Inspiritus as we walk alongside them during this crisis, the Peacock family has been able to provide the love and support that will allow the three foster children in their care to thrive.


 

Lutheran and Episcopal Bishops Weigh In On "Immigration and the Welcoming Church"

 

Inspiritus is grateful to have both Bishop Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southeastern Synod and Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta join us for a Faith Leaders Breakfast this month. The Bishops led a panel discussion on “Immigration and the Welcoming Church” and provided insights for attendees on how faith leaders can encourage their congregations to embrace immigrants and refugees.  Held on April 10, 2019 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, the ecumenical gathering included faith leaders and congregants from Lutheran, Episcopal, United Methodist and Jewish congregations in the Atlanta area and well as others with an interest in immigration related topics.

“Inspiritus is grateful to both Bishop Gordy and Bishop Wright for sharing their insights and practical advice on how religious leaders can guide their congregations and faith groups toward becoming more welcoming to immigrants,” says Melanie Johnson. “Both Bishop have been strong advocates for immigrants and for social justice, and it was an honor to have them lead this discussion with other faith leaders who are passionate about these topics.”

About Bishop H. Julian Gordy

The Reverend Julian Gordy served congregations in Mississippi and Tennessee before his election as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America (ELCA) Southeastern Synod in June 2007. A long-time proponent of ministries of mercy and justice, Bishop Gordy has been a voice for immigrants and refugees, serving as the chair of the Conference of Bishops Immigration Ready Bench. He serves as a member of the Conference of Bishops Theological and Ethical Concerns committee and was a member of the Criminal Justice Task Force, which wrote the ELCA’s social statement on criminal justice reform.

 

 About Bishop Robert C. Wright

The Right Rev. Robert C. Wright is the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, which covers north and middle Georgia. At the time of his election in June 2012, he had served 10 years as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Prior to that, he was a school chaplain and on the staff of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. Since becoming bishop, Wright addressed the Georgia legislature about gun control, spoke up for Medicaid expansion and has been a vocal and active opponent of the death penalty in Georgia.

 

Inspiritus Launches Host Homes for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

 
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Inspiritus has launched a new program focused on ending youth homelessness in Atlanta. The first program of its kind in Georgia, the THRIVE! Youth Host Home program provides welcoming spaces for young adults (ages 18-24) who are experiencing homelessness to live safely as they figure out their next steps and secure more permanent housing.

THRIVE! is designed to be temporary housing, and youth can stay in the host home for as little as a couple of nights up to nine months. The program places special emphasis on being inclusive and supportive of youth who identify as LGBTQ and youth who have aged out of foster care. In addition to housing, youth in the program will receive ongoing support, including education and employment assistance and other case management services.

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“Inspiritus is honored to have been selected by the City of Atlanta to pilot this youth-focused program, one of many initiatives the city is implementing to reduce homelessness around the metro area,” says John Moeller, CEO, Inspiritus. 

“One of the aspects of the program that is so special is that it emphasizes youth choice. We’re placing youth in supportive environments based on their needs and goals and preferences around how each individual does ‘home.’” says Alix Janke, Program Manager, Inspiritus.

Inspiritus is currently seeking compassionate individuals and families who are interested in opening their home to youth experiencing homelessness. Training is provided.

Bishop Julian Gordy of the ELCA Southeastern Synod gave this encouragement to individuals and families considering opening their home: “Some people will think it’s a big risk, but it's important to take the risk. Important for the youth, of course, but it's important for the whole society we live in. When more people grow up, knowing that they are supported and cared for, so many of the things that people often struggle with in later years, won’t be such difficulties.”

Are you interested in learning more about how you can become a host home or support host homes by donating, volunteering or advocating? Join us for an open house at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 16th at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (2089 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307).  Registration is not required.

For more information on getting involved with Thrive! Youth Host Homes, visit  weinspirit.org/thrive or contact Inspiritus Youth Host Home recruiter Fran Patrick at fran.patrick@weinspirit.org

 

Inspiritus' Disaster Team Helps Survivors of Storms in Southwest Georgia

 
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In the past few years, the Southwest region of Georgia has experienced a number of weather-related disasters. To help individuals and families get back on their feet, Inspiritus has assembled a disaster team to work in the region.  Inspiritus recently hired Richard Tison as a construction manager to join our current disaster response construction team, who also oversees projects in both the Soutwest and Coastal regions. 

 To provide additional support to families, Inspiritus brought on Sabrina More as Inspiritus’ Disaster Relief Caseworker for the Southwest.

 “As a disaster relief caseworker, I provide wrap around services for disaster survivors,” said Sabrina. “I find out what their story is, what they went through, what they need, and how to get them back to where they were before the storm. I come alongside each family and see how we can best serve them.”  

Sarah Burns’ Story

 Recently Sabrina worked with Sarah Burns*, a 71-year-old disaster survivor and mother of two adult daughters with disabilities.  Sarah has cared for her daughters all of their lives and was fearful that they would lose everything due to the challenges they faced following Hurricane Michael.  

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Sarah’s area of town was without power for two weeks after Michael came through Albany.  Her vegetable garden supplies most of the food she and her daughters eat. During the storm, she lost much of her garden and the food supply she had stockpiled in the freezer.  Money that would typically pay for her mortgage and utilities was spent on groceries.  Thankfully, Sarah was able to work out a payment plan with her bank for her home mortgage, and Inspiritus stepped in to help connect her to money for utility bills and a grocery store gift card to help with food. 

 Sarah told Sabrina, “You have no idea how much this means to me. I don’t know where you came from, but I’m glad God sent you.” 

 Once Inspiritus was able to remove some of the burden and worry from Sarah, she shared with Sabrina that she finally felt like she could relax.   

“She’s single with two daughters with special needs, she’s been taking care of them all of their lives,” says Sabrina. “She’s always been so strong for them.  I’m inspired by her strength to push forward and to provide for her daughters.” 

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 The Timmons Family’s Story

 On the construction management side, Inspiritus’ construction managers Al Kates and Richard Tison have been working with Albany residents to restore their homes following the tornadoes of 2017 and will soon start work on homes damaged during Hurricane Michael. 

 Donna and Albert Timmons, members of Lutheran Church of our Savior in Albany, GA, have been living in various temporary housing situations for more than two years after half their home was destroyed in 2017.

They were blessed to survive the huge oak tree that crashed through their bedroom, where Donna had been laying just moments earlier. However, their home was uninhabitable. The Timmons quickly learned that many of their neighbors were in similar situations. With the large amount of property damage in the area, the Timmons had a difficult time finding a contractor who was available to do the work. . 

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They finally found a contractor. Following the advice of FEMA they hired a local business, but the Timmons still ran into problems. The contractor they hired disappeared and declared bankruptcy, leaving them without a contractor and dwindling hope. 

 This is when the Inspiritus construction management team stepped in to help.  

 “When we got on the right path, it was a great relief.  We finally had someone to show us what to do.  We felt we had someone looking after us and that we were going to get some help. It was a blessing,” says Donna. 

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 Inspiritus’ Al Kates and Richard Tison worked to find local contractors to complete the projects so the Timmons will get back in their home as soon as possible.  The Inspiritus disaster team has worked with several churches from the metro Atlanta in providing volunteer groups to assist in some of the work.   

Groups from Good Shepherd Lutheran in Peachtree City and Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Faith Lutheran Church, Papermill Baptist and Johnson Ferry Baptist in Marietta and Rivercliff Lutheran in Roswell have been a huge help in getting the Timmons closer to moving back home.

 Inspiritus is in need of donations and volunteer groups to help us continue to restore the lives and homes of these disaster survivors.  Donate to Inspiritus’ disaster recovery work to provide support. Select disaster response to direct your funds specifically to our disaster work.

 

MyCanvas On Display As Featured Charity at Predators Game on March 21, Annual Art Show Follows on March 22

 
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 MyCanvas Mobile Youth Community Arts, a program of  Inspiritus serving middle Tennessee, has been chosen as the featured charity for the March 21, 2019 Nashville Predators game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  During the game, the Nashville Predators Foundation will host a supply and fundraising drive to help support MyCanvas’ mobile art workshops, serving underprivileged youth with limited exposure to arts programming.  

 The following day, March 22, MyCanvas will welcome the public to its annual community art show featuring artwork created by MyCanvas youth artists over the past year.  Held from 4:00-7:00 p.m., the art show will take place at the community room at Cheatham Place (1564 9th Avenue North, Nashville).   

  “MyCanvas workshops offer art-based opportunities for children and youth to explore and develop their talents, find their voice, and tell their stories with confidence,” says LeeAnn Love, Lead Art Therapist and Co-Founder of MyCanvas. 

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 “We are grateful to the Nashville Predators for choosing MyCanvas as a featured charity.  The fundraising drive at the March 21st game will supply MyCanvas with the materials and resources needed to continue our work of fostering self-esteem, self-confidence, and community resiliency through art,” says Janet Arning, Regional Director of Inspiritus’ Middle Tennessee region. 

About MyCanvas 

MyCanvas offers mobile art therapy experiences to youth in low income neighborhoods in middle Tennessee. MyCanvas art therapists work to help youth develop their own identities and self-esteem, learn healthy coping skills, and build community resiliency. Art engages creativity, imagination, and self-expression, but it can also be a powerful tool for change and healing. MyCanvas nurtures self-esteem, self-confidence, and community resiliency through artistic creation and expression, all provided free of charge to participants. 

 About Inspiritus 

Inspiritus is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that guides individuals and families on a path from surviving to thriving.  Inspiritus empowers people whose lives have been disrupted to discover their strengths and resilience, accompanying them as they grow into vibrant contributors to their community. Inspiritus delivers quality social services programs in the areas of Community Enrichment, Adoption, Specialized Foster Care, Family Intervention Services, Disability Services, Refugee and Immigration Services, Disaster Response and Financial Empowerment to communities in middle Tennessee and statewide in Georgia.  

 

"Hearts to Love" A Celebration of Love Between Foster Parents and Children

 
To God’s wonderful gift, whose name is Kembe. We love you and embrace you every minute and every hour. We pray to God that he keeps you safe and to us, grant us the wisdom to be just what you need. We love you very much.
— Kembe's Foster Parents
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 Last month, children in our Albany foster care program received a “dedication of love” from their foster parents at our first annual “Hearts to Love” event, an event created to celebrate the love between foster parents and their foster children. Surrounded by the Inspiritus Southwest community of staff, foster parents and children, each parent stood to present certificates inscribed with their heartfelt messages of love and encouragement to each of the children in their care. Each child also received an “I Love You” teddy bear donated by Build-A-Bear in Albany.  

 
 Dear Madison, To a family that isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who Would do anything to see you smile and who LOVE YOU no matter what! 
— Madison's Foster Parents
 
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“For many of our foster children, in their past they’ve heard the word ‘love,’ but there was no action behind it.  I believe they know they are loved by their foster parents, but it means more when a child gets to hear that message from the heart verbally expressed, put it in writing, and presented in front of witnesses.  I think it makes it more real for child,” said Carmalete Daniels, Case Manager, Inspiritus, Albany, GA. 

 
Dear Cameron,  We love you very much. We love the way you have matured and becoming your own man. We are so blessed that God has allowed you to be in our lives. You are such an inspiration to us and we have learned a lot from you. Can’t wait to see what your future holds! 
— Cameron's Foster Parents
 

Though a child’s stay in foster care is temporary, a foster parent and their care and love can have a lasting impact on a child’s life.  Both the teddy bear and the certificate are items that the child can keep and treasure as they move onto the next phase of their journey.   

“It is hoped that our children will keep their ‘I Love You Teddy Bear’, and when they are a little older, will pass on this ceremony by giving their bear to someone in their life they wish to express and dedicate their love to,” said Carmalete.  

The event and ceremony were so well received by both the parents and the children that Inspiritus Albany plans to make the event a yearly tradition. 

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“I believe the kids felt special. We all want to feel special and feel loved.  They felt both on that Saturday,” said Carmalete. 

Our Albany office hosts monthly events designed to support foster parents and provide therapeutic enrichment opportunities for the children in care.   Interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, contact Dawn McCune at dawn.mccune@weinspirit.org or 229-344-6350 to learn more or to attend an orientation. '

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our children and their families.

 

Inspiritus Offers Enrichment Programs in Nashville, Tenn Area

 
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By now, we hope you have heard that Inspiritus is serving individuals and families in middle Tennessee, following Lutheran Services of Georgia and Lutheran Services in Tennessee joining forces and changing names to Inspiritus in January.

With social service programs like MyCanvas Youth Art Workshops, Healthy Gardens and Building Healthy Families, Inspiritus’ Middle Tennessee Region serves hundreds of individuals and families in Nashville and the surrounding area each year. 

“In middle Tennessee, our programs are focused on enriching the lives of children, individuals and families who are economically disadvantaged,” says Janet Arning, Regional Director – Middle Tennessee. “Like the programs offered in Inspiritus’ Georgia regions, our mission is to empower those we serve to find their own strength and resilience, leading to a more fulfilling life and allowing them to contribute meaningfully to their communities.”

Our Tennessee Programs:

My Canvas

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MyCanvas is a mobile youth art enrichment program serving low-income children in the middle Tennessee region. 

MyCanvas was designed to help children in economically challenged communities learn to cope with daily stress and frustrations.  The program works to nurture self-esteem and self-confidence of the participants through artistic creation and expression.  MyCanvas encourages children and youth to explore and develop their talents, find their voice, and tell their stories with confidence. 

MyCanvas programs are conveniently offered in local neighborhoods and offered free of charge.  

On March 22, MyCanvas is hosting an art show and reception to celebrate and showcase new work created by MyCanvas Youth Artists.  The art show will take place from 4-7 p.m. at the Community Room at Cheatam Place.  (1564 9th Ave N, Nashville).

 

Healthy Gardens

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Inspiritus’ Healthy Gardens equips low-income communities with the knowledge and tools they need to grow their own garden.  Inspiritus provides everything needed for a family or individual to start their own garden, including raised-bed garden kits, soil, seeds, plants, watering cans and more. Education is offered before the season begins and continues throughout the growing season.

Through Healthy Gardens, families and individuals have easy and free access to fruits and vegetables to supplement their meals as well as a healthy outlet for relieving stress and staying active.  Gardeners often experience immense satisfaction and empowerment through growing their own food right outside their door.

The Healthy Gardens program began in 2011 with 12 gardens in the Cheatham Place Community in North Nashville. Those 12 gardens grew to 158 gardens in three counties in Middle Tennessee in 2018.

 

Building Healthy Families

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Building Healthy Families offers an educational support group for women living in poverty focused on encouraging healthy family skills.  Participants gather weekly for a class, meal, and the opportunity to choose personal or household items from the Caring Closet. As it says in the Building Healthy Families Community statement, it is “a time for multi-generational therapeutic sisterhood to learn, grow, and become more powerfully whole.”

 

Inspiritus Introduces Refugee Youth Career Pathways Program

 
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At Inspiritus, our refugee and immigration team recently launched a Refugee Youth Career Pathways (RYCP) program in the metro Atlanta area, and we are looking for volunteers to mentor and share their career experiences with teen and young adult refugees.  The RYCP program is designed to guide and assist young men and women ages 16-24 who are interested in pursuing skilled and professional careers in a variety of fields. Mentors will work with refugee youth to assist them in identifying their career goals, developing job readiness skills, and learning more about their career of interest.  

“Most youth have difficulties when trying to secure their first job and establish a career path. Refugee youth encounter the same difficulties along with their own set of unique struggles” says Spencer Clark, RYCP Case Manager. “By using a multi-faceted approach, the Refugee Youth Career Pathways program makes accessing meaningful employment in America more attainable. Whether through career development classes, one-on-one counseling, or a mentorship, RYCP participants obtain the skills needed to achieve their career goals and aspirations.” 

Youth enrolled in the Refugee Youth Career Pathways program work closely with the RYCP Case Manager to achieve long term career goals. Steps taken to ensure goals are met include:

  • Individual Career Development Planning

  • English Language Training (if needed)

  • One-on-one Career Counseling

  • Career Development Classes

  • Career Mentorship

  • Training Referrals

  • Higher Education Referrals

  • Other Services As Needed

  • Volunteer Mentors Needed 

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Want to learn more about this opportunity to have an impact on the future of a refugee teen or young adult? Please join Inspiritus for our Refugee and Immigration Services Volunteer Orientation on Sat. March 2nd or Sat. April 6 from 9:30 -12:30 am. We will be discussing this new volunteer to serve as a Refugee Youth Career Pathways (RYCP) Mentors.  

If you work in the healthcare, medical, or teaching fields, or are a flight attendant you are strongly encouraged to come! Please join us to learn about all the volunteer opportunities Inspiritus has to offer and to make a difference. See the link below for information on our Volunteer Orientations: 

Click here to register for March 2, 2019 Inspiritus Volunteer Orientation! 

Click here to register for April 6, 2019 Inspiritus Volunteer Orientation!  

 For more info on this exciting new volunteer opportunity, contact Grace Paulsen at grace.paulsen@weinspirit.org 

 

Inspiritus Staff, Supporters Take a Stand for Refugees at Annual New Americans Celebration

 

On February 14, Inspiritus staff, Board members and supporters joined with hundreds of others in support of refugees during the New Americans Celebration at the Georgia State Capitol. Organized by the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA), this day of advocacy and celebration gives participants a chance to meet with their Representatives to share why they are passionate about welcoming refugees in Georgia and urge them to support refugee friendly policies and laws.

Inspiritus employee and pastor of Good Samaritan Ministry Crispin Wiljonda spoke during the press conference portion of the event. Crispin shared his inspiring story as a former asylum seeker now U.S. citizen and highlighted the important contributions refugees and immigrants brings bring to our state and our country.

Photos from the 2019 New Americans Celebration

 

270 Volunteers Participated in Inspiritus' 2019 Lutheran MLK Day of Service

 

On Monday, January 21, Inspiritus, formerly LSG, held its 10th annual MLK Day of Service at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Peachtree Corners. 270 volunteers filled the fellowship hall to assist in 21 service projects benefiting people served by Inspiritus as well as projects hosted by local Lutheran churches.

Their service will have a lasting impact on those we serve and those served by churches in our community. The day began with the dynamic and inspiring Fearless Dialogues program, which trains and empowers participants to engage in hard heartfelt conversations that see gifts in others, hear value in stories, and work for change and positive transformation in self and other The whole-hearted participation of everyone in the Fearless Dialogues program made for a powerful experience of growth and connection.

Photos from the 2019 Lutheran MLK Day of Service

 

How Inspiritus Refugee Services Celebrated the Holiday Season

 
Fun with arts and crafts with Azure Community Development Arts for Inspiritus refugee children.

Fun with arts and crafts with Azure Community Development Arts for Inspiritus refugee children.

In early December, artist Christy Mansfield of Azure Community Development Arts facilitated a fun-filled morning for refugee families in Atlanta.  Christy guided parents and their children through two crafts, with each family going home with winter decorations for the holiday season.  Several budding artists were overheard dreaming of weekly art classes after their session with Christy!

The Little Helpers enjoyed sharing snacks and games with a refugee family and provided gifts for 26 individuals!  Founded by former refugee and news producer Tran Bui Smith, Little Helpers seeks to engage parents and their children in meaningful volunteer opportunities.  Year after year, the Little Helpers have helped Inspiritus kick off the holiday season with good cheer!

Little Helpers once again helps make the holidays special for refugee families served by Inspiritus

Little Helpers once again helps make the holidays special for refugee families served by Inspiritus

 Faith communities and individuals throughout the state made sure that each of the 642 individuals Inspiritus accompanies received a gift this winter.  Close to 300 refugees in Atlanta and Savannah received warm coats, clothes, and toys for what was for many of them their first winter in the U.S. 

University of Florida students help sort and deliver hundreds of gifts for Inspiritus families

University of Florida students help sort and deliver hundreds of gifts for Inspiritus families

 Refugee and Immigration Services staff sorted and delivered gifts in Atlanta in record time thanks to a hardworking group of students from the University of Florida.  As soon as finals were over, these students hit the road, making the drive up to Atlanta in order to learn firsthand about the experiences of refugees and to offer their support and assistance to Inspiritus and the families we accompany.

A Circle of Welcome team hosts a potluck for refugee families.

A Circle of Welcome team hosts a potluck for refugee families.

 Circle of Welcome teams enjoyed sharing the joy of the season with families from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Burundi.  One team, pictured here, used their Thrivent Action cards to host a winter potluck and celebration.  Another team exchanged cultural traditions on New Year’s, sharing hoppin’ john and an Afghan dish typically eaten on the Persian New Year together with their familes. 

 

 

 

Coastal Georgia Residents Give Back and Help Those Served by Inspiritus

 

December is traditionally a month brimming with color and light.  In its one-of-a-kind style, this holiday season Savannah charmed locals and tourists alike with decorative accents highlighting classic architecture, tunes of joviality spilling onto the streets at all hours and, most impressively - and unforgettably - caring community members giving testament to the phrase, "goodwill towards men".  

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Staying true to tradition, Inspiritus, formerly Lutheran Services of Georgia, organized its annual Hope Tree program, a gift-giving drive to bring cheer to its clients - refugee families, foster care and adopted children, disabled adults and at-risk youth. 

 

After sharing a wish list of what each client hoped to receive, for days and days and days Inspiritus staff welcomed a stream of "sleighs" dropping off the fruits of Santa's workshop.  Those of us receiving the bounty couldn't contain our astonishment.  "Did the baby really just get new clothing and toys and a gift card to boot?" "Just look at the quality of these girls' clothes!" "Imagine, a sorority raising hundreds of dollars for our refugee families." 

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All in all, members of 7 churches, a preschool, a sorority plus 4 individuals meticulously purchased  and wrapped 210 gifts in the sparkly colors of the season.  Loving kindness ripples far and wide as we were reminded of our better angels by the community's  outpouring of goodwill to all. 

 

Lutheran Services of Georgia Changes Its Name to Inspiritus

Media Contact:
Melissa Pinsky
404-932-4327
melissa.pinsky@weinspirit.org

 Lutheran Services of Georgia Changes Its Name to Inspiritus

Inspiritus Name Reflects Expanding Scope of Services for the Non-profit Organization

 (Atlanta, GA) January 16, 2019 – Lutheran Services of Georgia, a non-profit social service agency, has officially changed its name to Inspiritus after joining forces with Lutheran Services in Tennessee. Inspiritus works with thousands of individuals and families each year to provide disability, foster care, family intervention, adoption, refugee, and disaster response services.

 After reflecting on the organization’s work and impact, the board of directors for Inspiritus believes the new name better embodies the essence of Inspiritus’ mission to guide individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted on a path from surviving to thriving.

 “We had a superb reputation as Lutheran Services of Georgia, but as our services expanded over the years, the name did not adequately reflect what we do. And, it felt limiting as some people believed that you had to be Lutheran to benefit from our various services, which is not the case.” said Inspiritus CEO, Rev. John Moeller.

 “The new name Inspiritus derives from the word ‘inspirit,’ which means to fill with courage or strength of purpose. That is precisely what we do at Inspiritus. We embolden individuals and families to find their courage, inner strength and resilience so that they can lead a more fulfilling life,” said Moeller.

 In 2018, Inspiritus provided the following to families in need:

  •   Foster care services for 197 children and placement of 57 children in permanent homes. More than 1,200 children have been assisted on their road to permanent housing through foster care and adoption services since the organization’s founding in 1981. Thirty adoptions were finalized in 2018.

  • Placement of 98 individuals with intellectual disabilities in homes with caring and qualified support companions to improve their physical, social and emotional well-being.

  • Support of 432 refugees who resettled in Georgia, providing essential needs for these refugees, such as an apartment, food, health screenings, legal support, and school registration for children. In the last five years, Inspiritus also has secured more than 1,665 jobs for refugees. 

  • Long-term recovery assistance to 183 people following Hurricane Irma in Coastal Georgia. Inspiritus will continue to provide these long-term recovery services in 2019, including services for those affected by Hurricane Michael in Southwest Georgia.

With over 35 years of providing critical services, Inspiritus has impacted the lives of more than 100,000 individuals across Georgia and the southeast. Over the past several years, Inspiritus has expanded both the scope and geographic reach of its services and, hence, impact. Inspritus serves the Atlanta Metro area, Northwest Georgia, Northeast Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Coastal Georgia and now Middle Tennessee with offices in Atlanta, Athens, Albany, Columbus, Rome, Savannah and Nashville.

 The organization’s new logo includes a dove, which symbolizes both new beginnings and the Holy Spirit, highlighting the Christian and Lutheran faith that is central to its mission and daily work. It is with this spirit that Inspiritus continues to uphold its values of innovation, excellence, advocacy, holistic life span approach, empowerment, integrity, and collaboration.

 “As we at Inspiritus embrace our new name, our mission and vision remain unchanged,” said CEO John Moeller. “We will continue to offer services to help with basic needs, stability and safety, community integration and self-sufficiency. We feel called to do so, and we are excited about both the meaning and power of our new name.”

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Circle of Welcome Teams Celebrate Fall with Refugee Families

It’s been a busy fall for LSG’s Circle of Welcome teams! The volunteers have taken time recently to share fall traditions and fun with the refugee families resettled by LSG.

What is Circle of Welcome? Circle of Welcome is a program that pairs a community or faith group made up of 5 to 10 volunteers with a recently resettled refugee family. The Circle of Welcome team walks along side the family in service, friendship, and as advocates for the refugee family’s first year in the United States. In addition to working with the refugees on building essential skills and knowledge such as English language skills and providing assistance navigating the education, healthcare and other systems, the Circle of Welcome groups introduce their families to American cultural traditions, and, of course, have fun!

Here’s a glimpse into what our current teams have been up to lately!

  • The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer team recently hosted their Circle of Welcome family for a potluck with their church community.  This family of four happily reported, “The was the best Sunday of our lives!”

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  • Members of the Triad team—comprised of Rock of Ages Lutheran Church, Living Grace Lutheran Church, and Resurrection Lutheran Church—trained their family in hurricane preparedness just in time for Tropical Storm Michael.  They have also been busy sewing with and for the family so that the kids can bundle up as the weather gets colder!   

  • Members of Trinity Lutheran Church’s team enjoyed fundraising for the Circle of Welcome family during their annual Oktoberfest.  They also had fun introducing the kids to Halloween through a Trunk or Treat experience!

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  • Our newest Circle of Welcome team formed through the Lutheran Outreach Partnership of LCMS and ELCA churches in the Atlanta area.  Volunteers from Rivercliff Lutheran Church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, and Faith Lutheran Church are preparing to welcome a refugee family scheduled to arrive in Atlanta just in time for Thanksgiving!  

 

Will your faith or community group be the next to embrace refugees in friendship and love through Circle of Welcome? Email Janelle jmoore@lsga.org to learn more!


 

 

Volunteer Group Assists with Hurricane Irma Recovery Work

 

As our neighbors in North and South Carolina deal with continued massive flooding and begin to assess the damages left by Hurricane Florence, we at LSG are praying for their safety and for a full recovery from the devastation we’ve seen in photos and videos.

Last week marked the one year anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in Coastal Georgia.  Irma arrived just 10 month after Hurricane Matthew hit the coast, and many homeowners on Tybee Island and the surrounding area were still dealing with damages from Matthew.  When Irma brought more flooding and destruction, residents were overwhelmed and disheartened to begin the long recovery process all over.  In the weeks following Irma, LSG began meeting with homeowners and assessing property damages. Though Coastal Georgia was spared the worst of the storm, it was clear that the need for our help was still great.  Since then, LSG has been working with families in Coastal Georgia to help restore their lives following the 2017 storm. 

Volunteers Make Our Work Possible

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We couldn’t do it without the help of volunteers teams from around the state who assist on these recovery projects. In August, a team of volunteers from Acworth United Methodist Church in Acworth, Georgia travelled to Coastal Georgia to assist in repairing a home damaged by Hurricane Irma.  The home belongs to Ms. Ruth*, an elderly woman who lives in downtown Brunswick.  A tree fell through Ruth’s home during Hurricane Irma, allowing in rain and causing extensive damage to the interior of the home and ruining much of her belongings.  Ruth* had been living with a tarped roof and water damage and mold since the storm hit last September.  Thankfully, the roof was repaired in early August, and these volunteers came to help with the interior repairs.

Edward Bridges, member of Acworth UMC and part of the team of volunteers shares about the volunteer experience:

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“As you know, Jesus taught his disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and otherwise serve those in physical need.  When natural disasters devastate communities, people with few resources are unable to recover on their own.  So we started forming a disaster response team roughly a year ago at Acworth United Methodist Church to help meet this need.  We spent the last year organizing, training, and planning; our trip to Brunswick was our first chance to actually serve hands-on.

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Our team removed ruined ceilings, insulation, walls, cabinets, kitchen fixtures, and carpet, replaced some rotted structural wood, and treated the studs to prevent/eliminate mold.  We also helped Miss Ruth sort through belongings to clear rooms for demolition & construction work.  It was exhausting work, but we found it deeply rewarding to help a person in such dire straits.  Seeing the condition of Miss Ruth’s home also raised our awareness of how richly we are all blessed.  We will continue to pray for Miss Ruth and hope to return to Brunswick soon to continue work on her home.

We were also very grateful for the support we received from Lutheran Services of Georgia and Lord of Life Lutheran Church, our hosts for the week.  The local coordinator from LSG helped us make arrangements and provided expertise on the work project.  Lord of Life church provided facilities that we used for showering, eating, and sleeping, as well as giving us prayer support, encouragement, and a wonderful meal every evening we were in Brunswick.  The fresh local seafood was delightful at the end of a hard day’s work.  The church members were genuine partners in our team’s work.”

 LSG thanks the team from Acworth UMC for their hard work on Ms. Ruth’s home and their continued prayers!   LSG will have opportunities for groups to volunteer with home repairs throughout 2019.  For more information, please contact Lauren Cruickshank at lcruickshank@lsga.org.

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Circle of Welcome Team Commemorates Year Walking Alongside Refugee Family

 
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September 9th was God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday, a day of service for Evangelical Lutheran Church of America churches around the country.  One of our Circle of Welcome teams compromised of members Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Marietta and First United Lutheran Church in Kennesaw took this opportunity to celebrate the refugee family they’ve been working with this past year.  The team gathered at Milam Park in Clarkston to celebrate and acknowledge the end of their year with their Circle of Welcome family.  They shared a feast from Jerusalem Bakery and then presented the family with a framed photo collage of favorite shared moments from the past year.  They then took turns presenting family members with symbolic items to bless their new home and shared a blessing (see below).  The group then enjoyed parachute games, corn hole, and time outdoors together.

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Here’s the blessing that was shared with the family:

BREAD so you never go hungry
SALT so you always have spice in your life
HONEY so you may enjoy the sweetness of life
CANDLE so you always have light
RICE so the love in your home may multiply
OLIVE OIL so that you may be blessed with health and well-being
CLOTH so that your home may be forever filled with warmth
PINEAPPLE so you may enjoy good cheer, warmth and celebration
HOUSEPLANT so your home may always have life
BROOM so your home may always be clean
WOOD so your home has stability, harmony and peace
COINS so that you may always have good fortune. 

One team member shared: “This was a wonderful team.  Each of us had gifts which were of value to the family and the team…I loved working with the family and watching them adapt to their new environment.”

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Thank you so much to the team members from Lutheran Church of the Resurrection and First United Lutheran Church for your dedication to the Rohingya family you walked alongside for the past year. Your support of the family and your support of each other were an inspiration to us at LSG!

 

Newest Circle of Welcome Greets Family at the Airport

 
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When the Circle of Welcome volunteers from Redeemer Lutheran Church learned that they would be paired with a young, African family coming to the U.S. in less than a month, they were filled with gratitude and anticipation.  Having recently heard from LSG staff members during a presentation and sermon on Refugee Sunday, the volunteers knew well how few refugees have been able to make it through the system, and they had expected to have to wait for months before the next refugee family arrived in Atlanta.

The team flew into action to prepare for the Shabani family’s arrival, mobilizing dozens of other church members to assist with a donation drive to equip the family’s apartment*. They recruited friends from their community with relevant language skills and circulated links to help one another learn about the region and culture of the family. 

Finally, the big day arrived, and a group of eager Circle of Welcome volunteers assembled at the Atlanta airport to welcome the Shabani family.  When the young couple with their two toddlers walked through to the revolving door into the baggage claim area, six Circle of Welcome members were there to greet them, along with several of the family’s relatives who had been resettled a few years before.  Soon, the Shabani’s were hugging and laughing with the Cirlce team. 

Zak, the LSG case manager, smilingly reported, “You don’t see that hugging each time, before they know each other, but the family was just so happy—happy that people were there for them!” 

Will your faith or community group be the next to embrace refugees in friendship and love? Email jmoore@lsga.org to learn more!  

 

*Family name has been changed for the protection of their privacy.