Volunteers honor MLK with community service project

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley paints the trim on a window inside the laundry room at the House of Dawn in Jonesboro.

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley paints the trim on a window inside the laundry room at the House of Dawn in Jonesboro.

Members of a century-old sorority spent MLK Day –– the national holiday that honors civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. –– in service to the Clayton County community through volunteering at House of Dawn, a home for unwed teen mothers, in Jonesboro.

Tasha Mosley, Clayton State Court solicitor general, strapped on a mask, and grabbed a paintbrush, to trim out a window in the laundry room of the home.

"This is great," said Mosley. "We're having some fun now."

Mosley joined about 20 of her sisters of Psi Alpha Omega, the Clayton-Henry chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, in giving the house a fresh coat of paint. Some women baby-sat the tiny residents of the house, while the babies’ mothers participated in an etiquette class taught by other AKA sisters.

Joining the sorority sisters were members of Exquisite PEARLS and Emerging Young Ladies, both partnership programs within AKA, designed to foster middle and high school students into adult membership. At 104-years-old, AKA is the oldest Greek-letter organization founded by college-trained black women.

Shana Rooks, vice president and program chairperson for the chapter, said it is important for girls to experience what life could be if the wrong choices are made.

"Some of these girls at the House of Dawn are the same age as our girls," said Rooks. "They're pregnant, or have had babies, [they’re] as young as 14, or as old as 18. Our girls can see that life is not as bad as they think it is."

House of Dawn is in its seventh year. For those who think homes for unwed mothers went out with the Edsel, founder Dawn Murray said that the need still exists, but for different reasons.

"Families, a lot of times, are unable to take on the responsibility when a teenager gets pregnant," said Murray. "The parents themselves may be getting evicted, losing jobs, some parents are doing their own thing, they don't step up to the plate."

When the teenagers choose life over abortion, or adoption, and have nowhere else to go, they come to House of Dawn. For some of the girls, it is the best choice for them and their babies.

"The whole goal is to make the girls independent and self-sufficient," Murray said. "When the girls remain at home, the parents will parent for them. They make it too easy, and, sometimes, the girls have another baby."

But Murray said no girl has ever had a second baby while living at the House of Dawn.

In addition to being able to finish high school, get a job and become independent, single mothers, the girls learn life-skills, pregnancy prevention, participate in therapy-and-outreach activities.

"They let other girls know the real story of being an unwed mother," said Murray. "Some girls just don't get it, they live for today. Or, in their minds, they are looking for someone to love, and to love them back. They aren't from nurturing families, and think having a baby is the answer. Of course, a baby is not going to love them, that's not what babies do."

Murray has seen about 75 girls come through the house in seven years. The program has expanded to include a transitional living space in Riverdale that can house 10 mothers. The Jonesboro house can accommodate five girls.

The program is funded through various agencies and private donations, so getting a free coat of paint was a "blessing," said Murray.

"I'm just so excited," she said. "With the limited funding we have, we need all the community support we can get."

To donate to House of Dawn, access the web site at www.houseofdawn.org. The sorority's web site is www.psialphaomega.org. ꆱ