"In this case, both of these organizations have helped us get access to funds that we on our own would not even have access to," said Jessica Mitcham, the Good Neighbor's executive director. "Heritage applied to their denomination for funds awarded specifically to churches within the denomination. So we would not even be eligible to apply directly for [that] funding.
"... [The] same is true with Rotary Club, and I'm a member of that club. The club itself is giving $1,000 but it's being matched by the Rotary Foundation."
To be housed in the room that is utilized for board meetings as well as a common space for shelter guests, the computer lab will feature wall-to-wall desks with 11 new computers.
"The ultimate dream is that pretty soon we're hoping to start offering GED classes here at the shelter, and we'll be able to offer them in the evening," Mitcham said, noting the classes also will be offered to the public if spots are available. "We plan to offer them Sunday through Thursday from 6 to 9 in the evening. So it will be the only location that I know of in Bartow County that does evening GED classes. ... I'm thrilled that this is actually happening for our guests.
"It's such a huge opportunity for our guests to have so many additional resources to help with job searching, education -- we could have guests working on not only GED but working on college credits online right now here at the shelter in the evenings," she said, adding they also will be able to create résumés and cover letters. "We have a curfew of 7 for all of our guests. Now our guests can use those hours in the evenings to accomplish so many more things."
Since forming in 1996, the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter has served more than 4,600 people. On average, the 4,600-square-foot facility that was built in 2001 assists nearly 375 individuals per year. While they are housed, Good Neighbor's guests are required to find a job within four weeks, and the shelter's staff helps them establish savings, focus on problem-solving skills and chart out future housing options.
"Our church partners with a denominational-type organization called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship," said Michael Tutterow, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church. "Several years ago some curriculum that the CBF had put together is a particular study about how churches engage their communities. So Heritage had gone through that study and it made it eligible to apply for a grant. So we wrote up several community projects that we wanted to expand our ministry with. We've been longtime partners with the shelter.
"So as we were talking with Jessica [about] some of their goals, she mentioned this idea of creating a learning lab so that GED classes could be held there. ... [Then] we drew up a plan on how the space could be renovated and how the computers would be situated in the room," he said, adding about $13,000 out of the total $17,000 grant will be earmarked for the shelter. "We have a guy who does design and construction and he put a drawing together. And that was one of the pieces of the grant that we wrote for ... our church volunteers will be the ones who will construct the room and help to select the equipment ... [for it to] be a state of the art kind of learning lab."