By Daniel Silliman
After 13 years serving the youths of Clayton County, one organization now has a permanent home.
Hearts to Nourish Hope, Inc., dedicated to giving teens "the tools and support needed to become successful, self sufficient, contributing members of society," has moved into 345 Scott Road, in Riverdale.
The facility, which was formerly occupied by the Riverdale Church of God, is about 21,000 square feet and will -- according to the group's leaders -- move the 13-year-old organization forward.
"Having this building will allow us to do so much more," said Debbie Anglin, one of Hearts' founders. "We finally have a gym where the youth can play. Our youth can go outside if they want, and be safe. Hearts has always been a community resource center, but now we have the place to fill in the missing pieces in a much more enhanced manner."
The building was opened with a day-long celebration Friday. Organization officials used the moment to reflect on their history, and their work was honored by the presence of county commissioners, Michael Edmondson and Virginia Gray, Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske, District Attorney Jewel Scott, and others.
Anglin said the organization, which now helps about 1,000 youngsters, and feeds around 250 families every month, was started by her, Krista Crews and Patrice Wuerth in 1995.
"There have been many challenges, bumps, bruises, tears, hugs, and most importantly, prayers," she said. "During the beginning, everyone who knew us would agree on one thing, whether they liked us or not, and that was that we were crazy. But we are thankful that there were some people crazy enough to give us a chance."
With the support of the Clayton County Juvenile Court and United Way, Hearts to Nourish Hope Inc., started an after-school program, one day a week. It expanded with a youth-led community service project to feed local hungry families, a program to supervise suspended youths, summer programs, alternative education programs, and programs aimed at giving young people life skills, career skills, internships and work experiences.
Anglin said Hearts primarily focuses on teens in crisis situations, but it is open and interested in all youths.
"We kind of step up to the plate and fill the need, whatever it is," she said.
The new building will, the staff hopes, help meet the needs of the county's youths for the next 13 years. The building is being purchased with a three-year lease arrangement, and will cost about $2 million.