Category Archives: Article

From Homelessness to Honor Roll: Ebony, Seth & Sage

Ebony is 34 years old with a comforting and competent voice, the kind you’d feel better getting bad news from. Like many single parents, she works multiple jobs to provide for her two children, Seth and Sage. She is the manager of an H&R Block office, tutors children and picks up shifts tending bar and waiting tables when she can. And twelve years ago, Ebony was homeless.

Ebony ended up at a homeless shelter almost twelve years ago the same way thousands of other Americans do. One hurdle in her life led to another until they were cumulatively insurmountable. She had a small child and was in bad relationship. She was the sole provider and then became pregnant with her second child. Her family was also stretched thin and unable to offer much assistance. In an effort to get out of that relationship, Ebony was left with no help caring for her eighteen month-old son, Seth. Without reliable, affordable childcare, she couldn’t continue going to work and wound up in My Sister’s House, a shelter for women and children. While there, the staff told her about Our House and informed her that she could get free childcare for her son so she could work and get back on her feet.

Ebony’s son Seth began attending Our House while Ebony worked. Once Ebony’s daughter, Sage, was born, both children attended Our House where Ebony felt they received an education second to none. “The standards were so high…they helped me set him up for educational success,” Ebony says. She also stresses Our House’s focus on “meeting each child where they are and not letting their outside circumstances be an excuse or an obstacle to their success.” With Our House providing reliable, quality childcare, Ebony was able to get on her feet and build up her income. “With my childcare being a nonfactor, knowing that I had a place to take my babies, I could look to getting out of the situation.” Hand in hand with her Family Advocate at Our House, she was also able to move into permanent housing.

The support Ebony received at Our House when she needed it most combined with the quality education her children received has had ripple effects that have lasted more than a decade. Ebony is now living in Ohio with her children, who are now 13 and 11. Both of those children, who could have easily fallen behind their housed peers, are thriving educationally and are both on honor roll at school. And Ebony has built relationships that have lasted more than a decade. She is still in touch with the kids’ former teachers as well as other parents from her time at Our House. And she is bursting with pride at Our House’s growth over the years. “To see it evolve to become, on a physical level, what they’ve always been fundamentally. They were offering the same level of service in that little room in that little house…now they’ve got this big, updated, technically advanced space.”

When Ebony reflects back to the time in her life when she was experiencing homelessness, she expresses how fortunate she was to have encountered Our House. “Hindsight being 20/20, my homeless experience was a good one, it was like blessings all the way throughout. And it really started with Our House.”

Our House is now celebrating three decades of making intergenerational change in the lives of metro Atlanta citizens. Ebony’s is one of the many lives and families Our House has touched and impacted for the better.

National Volunteer Week: Thoughts on Service

In honor of 2017 National Volunteer Week, we asked our Board Chair, Aaron Danzig, to reflect on why he chooses to serve. 

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth,” so said the late, great Muhammad Ali.  And Winston Churchill once wrote, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Board Chair Aaron Danzig speaks at the most recent CDA class graduation.

Board Chair Aaron Danzig speaks at the most recent CDA class graduation.

Both of these truisms reflect what is important in a life well-lived.  While there are many similar sayings, the point is universal:  Helping others should be done by everyone with the ability to do so.  The benefits of volunteering are three-fold.  A need is fulfilled for the recipient, whether a basic need or something that brings happiness the recipient may never have known.  The giver fulfills his or her human duty to assist and nurture, obtaining the warm glow of satisfaction from doing a good deed.

But perhaps even more important is the interaction between recipient and giver — people who may not otherwise ever have the opportunity to meet — which promotes a greater understanding of the trials and tribulations of others and an appreciation of viewpoints and perspectives different from one’s own.  Too often, we live in an echo chamber of our own choosing, ensconced in a cocoon with similar people.  Volunteering provides an avenue for helping others while also helping ourselves.

There is no “right” method of volunteerism.  Each of us is imbued with unique skills and abilities.  There are thousands of organizations from which to choose — social service, education, religious, senior citizens, refugees — the list is endless.  And the rewards are limitless.  While I hope I make at least a small difference in the lives of those I serve when volunteering, I believe my service has had an even larger impact on me.

For the past five years, I have been on the board of Our House, and have served as the board chair for the past three years.  Our House is a wonderful organization providing high-quality early childhood education to those experiencing homeless and a shelter for infants and their families.  It provides “Shelter to Live and Education to Thrive.”  Every time I step foot into Our House, I come away inspired by both the staff at Our House and the children and families they serve.  If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities, please visit the Get Involved page. If you are interested in board service, please contact hello@ourhousega.org, and let us know why you would like to serve at Our House.

-Aaron Danzig, Our House Board of Directors Chairman