Families First (2006)
Everyone assumed that Ms. Sheri Bibbs was a staff member with Families First when they arrived at CityLights Tuesday morning. She was introduced as the speaker and waited patiently for her turn to share. We were surprised to learn that about six months previously Sheri had been homeless.
Sheri had been on the streets of Atlanta for 10 years, in and out of shelters and sometimes sleeping in cars. This mother of six was HIV-positive, had high blood pressure, was depressed, and was close to death. It wasn't until someone referred her to Families First that she found the hope to continue living.
Families First provided Sheri and her children with a long-term three bedroom apartment. She recently spent her first Christmas together with her family, one of her daughters has become a straight-A student, and a son is on his way to college. Sheri is driven to serve, and she now voluntarily mentors women who face similar difficulties. Sheri joyfully said that she did not know who she was before being welcomed at Families First, but now she has found a faith in Jesus and a sense of purpose and identity.
CityLights met in one of the seven group homes in Metro Atlanta serving sexually abused girls, young mothers, or boys. Each Families First home or counseling center exists to strengthen and preserve families in partnership with them and their communities.
Founded in Atlanta, in 1890 by two visionary African-American women to rescue abandoned and orphaned children, Families First is a great example of how long-term vision, faithfulness and community interaction can result in sustained life-change. Meeting with CEO Pat Showell, and a handful of Families First's leadership, it was easy to see how their effectiveness has been sustained. Families First's $13 million annual operations budget supports a wide range of concrete programs providing family counseling, constant interaction with legal, medical, educational and social services agencies across 15 Atlanta area counties.
"This was the most rigorous job application process I have ever been through," said June Arnold who is the manager of Families First's annual fund. She had previously worked with a non-profit serving violence prone and emotionally disturbed adolescents and before that worked with a well known financial services firm. She explained that the biggest part of Families First's effectiveness is the organization's "persnickety-ness" in hiring just the absolute right person for each position. CityLights friend and Communities in Schools pioneer Neil Shorthouse observed, "From CEO Mary Margaret Carr in the 70's & 80's to CEO Bert Weaver in the 80's & 90's and this decade's CEO Pat Showell, Families First has had long-term stability in its leadership and effectiveness in remaining clear about their unique strengths and focus." Longevity and mission effectiveness has been empowered by continually building teams of highly qualified, professionally equipped, and uniquely called women and men to daily serve as stewards of the cases of the nearly 100,000 individuals that Families First serves in a year.
There are many opportunities for involvement with Families First throughout fifteen Atlanta area counties. For more information, please go to www.familiesfirst.org.
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- AMEN, Inc. (2005)
- Atlanta American Red Cross (2005)
- Atlanta Community Food Bank (2006)
- Atlanta Development Authority (2005)
- Atlanta Housing (2006)
- Atlanta Intercultural Ministries (2005)
- Atlanta Mission (2011)
- Atlanta Youth Academy (2007)
- Beltline & Proposed Westside Park (2011)
- Buckhead Christian Ministry (2006)
- Carver Bible College (2006)
- Carver YMCA (2009)
- Charis Community Housing (2012)
- Childspring (2007)
- City of Refuge
- Communitites in Schools (2005, 2007,2011)
- Covenant House (2004)
- Create Your Dreams (2005)
- David Allman and Friends (2004)
- Families First (2006)
- FCS Urban Ministries
- Frazer Center (2012)
- Georgia Student Leadership Forum
- Good Samaritan Health Center (2005)
- How People Grow (2012)
- Jars of Clay Outreach (2006)
- Justice (2012)
- The Leaders Lyceum
- Life Lessons (2006)
- Mary Mac's (2009)
- MedShare International (2004)
- SafeHouse Outreach (2005)
- Sears Building Becoming Ponce City Market (2012)
- Theatrical Outfit (2011)