Today’s blog post is by Ashley Latham, the Administrative Coordinator at Gateway Center. Ashley has been working with us since February and is completely over-qualified.
Three days into the beginning of this year, my friend, Molly Heacock (Community Relations Director), reached out to me about a job with the Gateway Center (GWC). I was ecstatic to hear from her because my job at the time was not a good fit for me and I was aching for a new opportunity. I dreamed about getting my foot in the door with the non-profit sector. This desire came from my year-long internship I had with my college ministry after graduation. The internship helped me grow as a follower of Jesus and grow in what I believe He calls me to do—help serve my neighbors in my Atlanta community. I wanted to try this within the non-profit world and Molly connected me with that opportunity! Almost three years after my internship ended, I started the position of Administrative Coordinator for GWC.
I’ve been with GWC for six months and have experienced many fulfilling and challenging “teachable moments”. My responsibilities don’t entail much interaction with our clients who are experiencing homelessness, so some days it is challenging to see what I am contributing. However, I am part of the big picture. I work on the senior leadership teams to listen to ideas and offer ideas about how we keep moving with our GWC mission. I use my administrative skills to help things run “behind the scenes”. I am frequently having moments that teach me how every part of the body is needed to function at its fullest.
Becoming more aware of the heaviness of homelessness is also challenging. It’s overwhelming to help take this on, but I believe in the mission of GWC. We are ending homelessness; for one person at a time.
Another thing I’ve learned—laughter and smiling help us connect. I am the back-up to my co-worker who handles MARTA card distribution for certain program clients. Once, I was giving a MARTA card to a client and asked him to sign his name and the last four digits of his SSN, as required. He looked at me nervously and said, “I don’t know my social.” Surprised, I replied, “Oh, you don’t?” He then burst into laughter and said, “I’m just messing with you!” He smiled real big. I laughed, too. He graciously took his MARTA card, wishing me a good day. Another time, upon walking to the Post Office during lunch, I ran into a man who politely greeted me and walked alongside me. We exchanged pleasantries about weather and through the conversation, I learned he experienced homelessness. When it came time for us to part ways, I asked him how long it took to walk to his destination (I knew the place was far). He told me, “Well, normally it takes quite a while, but at the pace you’re walking, I’ll be there in no time!” We both laughed. I apologized for walking fast. He said it was quite alright and that he enjoyed our conversation. I am thankful for those little connecting moments.
Often, what I find fulfilling isn’t always what I can give, but what I can learn from being at GWC. Bec Cranford (Volunteer Coordinator), among others, has taught me the power and importance of breaking down stereotypes, specifically about homelessness; from the effect of our words to the mindset we maintain about those experiencing homelessness. They are people experiencing homelessness, not homeless people. They need the same things you and I do: love, dignity, hope, encouragement, laughter—not just basic physical needs. I pray I soak this up and become an educator of truth about homelessness and about how to really help; in my job, in day-to-day life, and in conversations with friends and family.
I look forward to more moments of learning and laughter.
Last year over 4,400 unique persons stayed at Gateway Center in their journey towards self-sufficiency and out of homelessness. $10 provides meals for a day for one of these men, women, and children. Every dollar counts. Make a donation today.