Gathering

Chef, restaurateur, author and activist Alice Waters once reflected that "this is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive." This quote really captures the essence of a new and hopefully - to borrow a word from Waters - ongoing activity we have started with Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church (PHBC). A few months ago, Jennie Sankey, Associate Pastor for Christian Education and Middle School Youth, contacted Hi-Hope to explore ways to get her middle school students involved with Hi-Hope. After taking a tour and learning a bit about what we do, an idea came to fruition to create a monthly gathering on Sunday evenings that would bring together Hi-Hope's group home residents and staff and the churches middle school students and staff for some casual food and fun. It was ultimately decided that the church would host the meeting to give Hi-Hope's individuals the opportunity to visit a new location. On Sunday, September 9th, Hi-Hope visited PHBC for the first time and it was fantastic!

Hi-Hope's individuals showed up wearing some of their Sunday best and after a short gathering and brief prayer - led by Hi-Hope individual Terri - the doors to a large meeting hall were flung open and dinner was on. The church members and Hi-Hope individuals sat together to get to know one another better. The church served pizza and pasta and Hi-Hope brought sub sandwiches and sweet tea. Ice pops and ice cream sandwiches concluded the meal after which everyone lined up for a Polaroid photo booth and took individual and group shots. Once folks got their pictures, they were given the opportunity to sit down at a picture decorating station to add some additional bling.

Everyone left with a picture souvenir to commemorate the first gathering between these two great community organizations. Hi-Hope wishes to extend its sincere thanks to all the middle school students, parents, church staff and Rev. Sankey for making this possible and we wish to express our happiness at the prospect of seeing you all again very, very soon when we can usher forth the spirit of hope, joy, thoughtfulness and life.

"You should feel a nice, gentle stretch"

Canadian Gymnast and Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Shewfelt recognizes the advantages of yoga, stating, "not only is yoga excellent for flexibility, but it is also a great tool for longevity and injury prevention, as it allows for internal body awareness." This is fantastic because yoga is now a regular part of programming at Hi-Hope. Since February of 2018, Hi-Hope has been participating in weekly yoga classes. The instructor, Patricia, is a photographer and friend of Hi-Hope CEO, Susan Boland Butts, and has taken photographs of our individuals in the past. The yoga studio is in Pat's garage, which she converted to a photography/yoga studio and is big enough to accommodate 5 students, a Hi-Hope staff member and Patricia. 

Patricia creates a calming ambiance with music, dimmed lights and candles to encourage relaxation and mindfulness. She also ends each class by giving her students a special beverage that changes from week to week. She has also had participants stay after for lunch following the class. 

Stacy Badjan is the staff member currently assigned to this project and she reports that the class is going great and that "the individuals love it." Participant Carl approached CAG Coordinator Valorie Williams after his first time and said that he loved yoga and wanted to continue taking the class. While there are regulars, if people are absent, Patricia is flexible and will work with substitutes. She wants to open the class to anyone who is interested so new participants will rotate in over time. 

We hope to continue offering unique and interesting activities to the individuals we support at Hi-Hope. Yoga class joins the diverse list of volunteer driven offerings like hula dance class, cooking class, music appreciation, Name-That-Tune, aerobics, sign language and many more. A big thank you to Patricia and all our volunteers for making the days and weeks at Hi-Hope that much more interesting.

The "Rush" of Rush

Hi-Hope is once again the beneficiary of some very generous volunteer efforts as part of Perimeter Church's annual Rush Conference. For those not in the know, Rush Conference is a student-led leadership conference with "stuff like worship, small groups, seminars, food, fun, missions, enough candy to frighten a dentist, and well, tons more." Hi-Hope benefits from the "missions" component of the conference. The Rush website describes the missions as follows: 

Part of learning to be a mature follower of Christ is learning to be His hands and feet. Community outreach projects all over the city of Atlanta allow students to exercise their faith and to experience what it means to share the love of Christ.

Hi-Hope loves being a mission site as it guarantees that every summer, for three days, a group of fantastic students visit us with open minds, full hearts and the desire to serve. There is no service challenge they are unwilling to tackle. As in previous years, the volunteers spent the first half of their visit interacting with our individuals. Afterward, the groups tackled operational projects. This year they sorted art supplies, moved artwork and moved some seasonal decorations into more permanent storage. It might not sound like much, but their help reduced the project timeline from several days to a couple hours. This year's groups represented folks from Perimeter Church right here in Atlanta, a group from Florida that had visited Hi-Hope several years ago, and a group from Chickamauga.

Each year Rush is a bit of a whirlwind - or a RUSH. It is three busy days of young folks coming with energy and enthusiasm and the genuine desire to help. It injects our organization with vitality and inspiration and the capacity to take on some tasks that we just can't handle on our own. Indeed, the "rush" of Rush is a welcome and wonderful thing that we look forward to doing for years to come.

The Results Are In...

In our last blog post, we wrote about the upcoming elections for Hi-Hope Client Council. Well, the elections happened on Wednesday, June 13 and the results are in! Director of Day Services, Adria Wiggins, has this to say:

Over the last few weeks our candidates used their creativity to develop their campaign strategies. They created signs/posters, met with their peers and, of course, offered them some treats (for example, Jell-O, freeze pops, etc.). Ballots were cast today. Our individuals had the opportunity to select the candidates of their choice with some visual supports and assistance from staff. 

Hi-Hope staff prepared for the elections well in advance to make the experience interactive and to simulate an authentic election experience. For example, individuals cast their votes in a ballot box and received an "I voted for Hi-Hope Council" sticker when they finished (a special thanks to volunteer Maureen for creating the stickers).

Communication Support Shari Durand issued the following summary after the elections:

This year we had 23 candidates: 10 for President, 6 for Vice President, 2 for Secretary, 3 for Treasurer and 2 for Sargent-at-Arms. On May 18, 2018 we held the Client Council interest meeting and after explaining the different offices to the group, the facilitators noted which individuals wanted to run for a special office. The following 3.5 weeks were full of campaigning and learning about the electoral process. On June 13, 2018, the elections were held. Individuals were provided with ballots, large pictures, communication devices and time to make their selection. 74 separate ballots, 326 individual votes/choices were made and completed... It was a great turn out, with every individual making choices from among their peers!

The title of this blog entry is "the results are in..." and indeed they are. Without further ado, here are the election results:

President - Robyn J.

Vice President - Natalie F.

Secretary - Amanda H.

Treasurer - Donna W.

Sargent-at-Arms - Jim P.

Congratulations to all the winners and their opponents who participated in the process. Everyone should be proud of their efforts and take pleasure in knowing that they brought the beauty and elegance of a fair and honest democratic election to life at Hi-Hope. Three cheers for everyone involved. Hip hip hooray...

It's Election Time at Hi-Hope

To quote the great radio DJ Chris Stevens:

Well, I just wanna applaud y'all for plunging headfirst into the great river of democracy. I mean, our election is just a small tributary. You know, a singular thread in the greater fabric, linked by tradition, love, and honor to the swift, clear, bracing waters from which our traditions are founded. But I'm just saying, let's take a little time out here to slap ourselves on the back, give a kiss on the cheek, a hale and hearty fare-thee-well to all our fine noble...citizens.

Chris' enthusiasm is totally justified. Not matter how big or how small the election, participating in a vote for a representative is an important thing. It speaks to the heart of choice - in privacy and security the elector makes a decision that will directly impact their community and, in doing so, they set the wheels of fate in motion [we should probably note that the author of this blog post is particular fond of elections]. It is with great pride that Hi-Hope announces the start of it campaign season and its very own upcoming elections.

Starting on Monday, June 11th, 2018 and ending on Thursday, June 14th at 1:00 PM, a very important voting process will occur at Hi-Hope. The individuals will democratically select their next Client Council - a group of elected representatives that will serve their peers for a two year term.

The purpose of the Client Council is to give Hi-Hope individuals an opportunity to develop leadership and learn about advocacy. The members will do this by assisting with and participating in activities and service projects at Hi-Hope and the community at large. The members contribute to and promote the Hi-Hope mission and vision and serve as representatives for their peers. They share ideas, interests and concerns with Hi-Hope staff and leadership. Below is a list of the individuals running for each office (please note: candidates are still signing up and this list does not represent the final ballot):

PRESIDENT

  • David B.
  • Patsy R.
  • Justin R.
  • Bruce P.
  • Terri N.
  • Carl B.
  • Robyn J.
  • Dan T.

VICE PRESIENT

  • Demarie N.
  • Marty P.

SECRETARY

  • Leslie H.
  • Amanda H.

SARGENT AT ARMS

  • Teiylea "TY" D.

TREASURER

  • Desiree H.
  • Eric V.
  • Donna W.

MEMEBERS-AT-LARGE

  • Lisa P.
  • Brittany T.
  • Marian T.
  • Kent G.
  • Kimberly M.
  • Betty P.
  • Kayla D.
  • Joel J.
  • Mark C.
  • Kristen D.
  • Kendra M.

There will be more to come as the individual campaigns come to life and the election takes place; unfolding in beautiful expressions of free and fair choice. Stay tuned!