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Teen Council, Kiwanis support homeless shelter

Cavalry Refuge Center Executive Director Twanna Tarno is surrounded by members of Forest Park Teen Council after accepting a donation that will buy five school uniforms for homeless students. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

Cavalry Refuge Center Executive Director Twanna Tarno is surrounded by members of Forest Park Teen Council after accepting a donation that will buy five school uniforms for homeless students. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

FOREST PARK — There are 2,200 homeless children attending classes in Clayton County schools but they are no different from their fellow students.

Through donations by Forest Park organizations, Kiwanis and Teen Council, the handful of homeless students who live at Cavalry Refuge Center can blend in with the rest of the kids at school.

The Kiwanis Club donated enough money to buy 10 school uniforms and Teen Council — who likely attend classes with homeless students — contributed funds for five uniforms.

The presentations were made Thursday night during the December Kiwanis meeting. The funds were accepted by Twanna Tarno, executive director of Cavalry Refuge Center.

“We want our students to go to schools and look like every other student,” she said. “Children are children and we don’t want them standing out in brightly-colored shirts or anything that is different from the school uniforms.”

The 117-bed shelter, in a former church building at 4265 Thurmond Road, has served homeless men, women and children for 28 years. There are sections for transitional homeless and for those in an emergency situation, Tarno said.

“We have 13 children in the emergency section and 18 in transitional,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot more children in the program than when we first opened 28 years ago.”

A private, anonymous donor matches up to $25,000 of donated funds to Cavalry, said Tarno. State Farmers Market, also in Forest Park, donates fresh vegetables every Wednesday.

However, the need never ends.

“Every morning at 5, we need coffee, milk and juice,” she said. “We often get donated coffee but we can always use more milk and juice. Everyone at the shelter leaves by 6 a.m. and returns at 6 p.m.”

Anyone who wants to make a donation or who has job openings to offer the homeless should contact the shelter at 404-361-5309.