There's no lack of major galas held in Gwinnett County to benefit various organizations and nonprofits. But the one coming up Oct. 22 to benefit Rainbow Village stands out since it will be celebrating the group's 20th year.Though the organization is taking time to reminisce about the past two decades, it's focus is squarely on the future.
"We're looking behind a little, but we're really looking forward to help that next generation" of homeless people, said Nancy Yancey, CEO of Rainbow Village.
For the uninitiated, Rainbow Village offers a transitional housing program that provides housing and a full complement of life skills services for homeless families with children in the north metro area. Located in Duluth, it uses a "takes a village" approach with church and community volunteers (more than 800, according to the organization's website) donating home furnishings, providing assistance in the after school program, assisting with job training, providing meals for evening sessions and assisting with the maintenance of homes and grounds. Many local churches and civic groups pitch in with both donations of time and money.
The gala -- called "Puttin' on the Glitz" -- will be held at the Atlanta Athletic Club and features former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves as master of ceremonies. A major fund raiser for Rainbow Village, the night also features Steven Jackson as the keynote speaker.
Jackson, 30, is CEO of Created Jus 4 You, a video editing company. He lives in Baltimore and is a product of Rainbow Village, having lived there with his family as a 16-year-old. His speech will be one of the highlights of the evening.
"He's going to talk about how Rainbow Village turned his and his family's life around. He has truly paid it forward," Yancey said of Jackson's civic involvement. "We are now seeing that next generation come around and we know they are they ones to break that cycle (of homelessness)."
Yancey said families stay at Rainbow Village for one to two years, but "we've learned a lot in 20 years and know that it takes five years for a family to transition." That's why Rainbow Village offers after care programs, and it's also why moving forward the organization plans to expand.
Earlier this year Rainbow Village launched a capital campaign that will allow it to triple the number of families it can serve at one time. In the next five years, the group will build a new campus in three phases that will allow it to support and house 30 families. Plans are for the new campus, still located in Duluth, to have a childcare center, a community/education center and a resident support center in addition to new housing units.
That will allow Rainbow Village to help more families, and in turn, Yancey hopes, produce more success stories like Steven Jackson.
For more information on Rainbow Village, go to www.rainbowvillage.org.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.