ROSWELL, Ga. — Volunteers are often the stars of any nonprofit, and the Drake House knows this better than most. On March 9, The Drake House held its annual volunteer appreciation dinner hosted by First Baptist Roswell Church to celebrate the spirit of giving. The Milton chapter of the National Charity League helped support the event.
Executive Director Kathy Swahn used the occasion to officially announce the nonprofit, which provides shelter and guidance for displaced women and their children, has expanded its facilities.
“On Feb. 14, we closed on Roswell Oaks Apartment Complex and raised an additional 16 units right next to the Drake House, adjacent to what we already have,” Swahn said. “This is doubling our capacity to 32 units and our beds from 44 to 88.”
In 2016 alone, The Drake House served 393 families and 723 children in the North Fulton area. The group’s graduation success rates have gone up to 79 percent, and all of the hot water heaters in the existing units have been replaced.
In November, The Drake House officially started a new afterschool program. This helps not only the children, but the mothers, who often have no car, as well.
In terms of people who have slept at the Drake House over the year, they have served over 11,920 bed nights this past year. These are women and children who had no other place to stay.
Director of Programs Christy Merritt said the families at the Drake House are tending to stay longer, now on average for 142 days, because of the lack of affordable housing options in the area. This was one of the reasons the nonprofit decided to expand its housing.
The volunteers have been instrumental in helping these efforts, Swahn said, and the Drake House thanks them.
“The amazing thing is that right now we live in a world where time is a commodity,” said Volunteer and Resource Coordinator Melinda Szegedi. “I’ve realized that volunteers are not just people who really do want to make a difference, but they’re also willing to take the time to actually make a difference, to give that time up for somebody else.”
Dozens of volunteers were awarded at the dinner for their time, efforts and compassion throughout 2016, and all were recognized for their help.
“Our volunteers are understanding, compassionate, good listeners and give a helping hand, knowing that through all these ways, they can help someone make it through the storm they are facing,” said Volunteer and Resource Coordinator Melinda Szegedi. “They realize that serving rather than receiving is where true joy lies.”
Kimberly Jackson, The Drake Closet manager, said she was humbled by the devotion of volunteers who keep returning and giving. She ascribed the commitment to the sense of progress and belonging that volunteer work brings.
Some volunteers in turn spoke about their experiences and the profound encounters they have had with families staying at the facilities.
“The Drake House moms are strong, steadfast and faithful,” volunteer Meg Chapman said. “They have fallen on hard times, but they are determined to triumph and overcome, and they are relentless in their pursuits. My spirit and faith is lifted helping them.”
To learn more about the Drake House and to get involved, visit thedrakehouse.org.