MURPHY: A success story born out of Rainbow Village

Had the cycle remained unbroken, Steven Jackson would be telling a much different story.

His childhood journey begins with a series of starts and stops.

"From the age of 8, my parents moved my brother, two sisters, and I from house to house, shelter to shelter, motel to motel, and transitional to transitional," he said.

Throughout those difficult times he experienced all the emotions that come with being homeless -- the uncertainty of not knowing where he'd sleep that night, the frustration of missing out on the fun and games of childhood and the understanding that he needed to "grow up" well before his time.

But then his family found Rainbow Village -- a transitional housing community in Duluth that aids homeless families with children. And Jackson found solid ground.

He was in high school and staying with grandparents when his mother told him she'd found a "two-bedroom house, fully furnished, upstairs and downstairs, and we have a phone." Still, he was resistant to leave the relative stability of his grandparents' home.

"My mom insisted that I come and check the place out for myself, and to my surprise, after one visit I fell in love and I was moving again. I not only enjoyed the material aspects like having an actual bed or mattress to sleep on . . .but I was grateful to enjoy smiling again with my family."

It was during his time at Rainbow Village that Jackson grew through his teen years. He matured, learned how to be a part of a team, developed leadership skills and found a large support group.

"Rainbow Village was where my siblings and I had friends that were like family ... We all related to each other so well and had so much fun together ... We all have many great memories."

Jackson found stability in a transitional housing program and has helped others find stability, too. He became a licensed minister in 2003 and later worked for two years for the Coalition for The Homeless as a program coordinator and interim director in Washington, D.C. Today, at 30, he lives in Baltimore and is CEO of a video-editing company.

Rainbow Village is in the midst of a three-phase capital campaign that will build a new campus and triple the nonprofit organization's capacity, allowing it to house up to 30 families. It celebrated its 20th anniversary last week at a gala and fundraiser at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Former Atlanta Falcons Coach Dan Reeves emceed the event, which added a cool $100,000 net to the campaign.

Who better to call on to tell the Village's story than one of its many successful alumni? Jackson shared his story as keynote speaker at the event. He described his time at Rainbow Village as a turning point, not just for him and his family, but for others being aided by the non-profit program.

The organization states a clear goal of breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Jackson's testimony attests to the organization's effectiveness. It's all about giving people opportunity.

"Rainbow Village gives families like mine a second chance," Jackson said. And that's exactly what he needed to put a happy ending on a tough childhood story. Sometimes it really does take a village.

For info on Rainbow Village and its capital campaign, go to www.rainbowvillage.org.

J.K. Murphy is publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Email him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.