By Johnny Jackson
Older children at the shelter were confined to congregating in the parking lot, where they often play a pick-up game of basketball.
It had been a rustic and sometimes dangerous way to go about developing friendships and having fun, according to Jill Holder, executive director of the non-profit A Friend's House children's shelter.
In August, the shelter received something that will go a long way in making its residents' recreational activities more wholesome. The shelter received a $21,500 conditional donation from the Covington, Ga.-based Snapping Shoals EMC (Electric Membership Corporation).
The money, used this fall to build an outdoor pavilion at the shelter, was made available due to unclaimed capital credits that have remained unclaimed over the past five years, said Randy Shaw, senior vice president for corporate services at Snapping Shoals.
Unclaimed credits are typically reverted back into the community to help fund various non-profit projects, one being the pavilion project at A Friend's House.
Earlier this summer, Shaw presented the pavilion project idea to the Snapping Shoals Board of Directors, which, in turn, laid out its plans to spend the overflow on educational and non-profit needs within the community.
For instance, Snapping Shoals has contributed some of the credits to its J. E. Robinson, or All-Around scholarship programs, which reward college-bound high school seniors.
"This was one of the projects that really seemed like a good way to use the money," Shaw said. "It just seemed like a natural fit for us. One of the things that we really liked about it was to be able to build a pavilion and give an opportunity for [the children] to have recreation and exercise activities in a safe environment."
The pavilion project was completed earlier this month and will be used as a gathering and picnic spot for the shelter's children, friends and family.
Next up, according to Holder, is the shelter's new black-top, full-court basketball court. Construction is already underway on the project, which should give the youths a permanent place to place basketball, as well as a multipurpose surface to play on.
The decade-old shelter has been able to pay for such expansion projects through small in-kind donations and fund-raisers like its most recent Nov. 8 yard sale. Corporate donations from organizations like Snapping Shoals have also made a large impact on the shelter.
"It was such a wonderful gift, and we are so thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful community -and corporate community -to help us provide this addition for our children," Holder said. "We appreciate what everyone has done for us the past 10 years, and that they will continue to be dedicated to the children of Henry County, who need us."
The shelter, located at 111 Henry Parkway in McDonough, continues to accept donations for ongoing needs. The shelter's current needs, for instance, are in obtaining a new van to help transport children to activities and doctor's appointments.
"We're here to give children who are in crisis - who are in trauma and can't be at home right now - a place to receive the care, attention and services that they need in their own community, while their families receive therapy or other services," Holder added. "[We're here] so that the children can, hopefully, return home."