Monthly Archives: August 2016

Ada in Action: Emily’s Story

Emily’s Story




I initially came with my service dog, Blaze, to the Ada Jenkins Center to meet with Crisis Assistance Ministry for financial assistance. Some time later, we returned because we no longer had a place to live. All of our belongings were in storage and we lived in a nearby hotel. Blaze and I went back to Ada Jenkins and after speaking to Tina, the receptionist, I realized the Center had much more help to offer.

From our initial visit, “Ms. Smiley-Happy” as I like to call Tina greeted us with enthusiasm but also firm professionalism. As she explained the available services, all I could do was smile. That was a good thing, because my smiles were few and far between. Volunteers greeted me with the same enthusiasm, as did my case worker Cara. Other staff acting on my behalf continued this mission of support and assistance, sometimes with increasing effectiveness during my stumbling-blocks and snags. All of my case workers were and are still very supportive and most of all encouraging. They continued to do everything they can to help ease our journey and make our transition better. They were all receptive of my service dog, Blaze. I believed we were receiving extra favor from the Ada Jenkins staff and volunteers…and then I realized that this is a great group of folks who are just doing their jobs, and doing them really well.

From the time we stepped inside the Center or remained outside sitting and waiting, we felt comfortable and genuinely cared for. The Staff and volunteers supported us by instructing, referring, and managing. They made certain we had food, water, and temporary shelter, the most basic of human needs. At a time when you feel discouraged and broken, these needs are incredibly important to have met. I am so grateful for the pep talks, the straight talk, the prayers, and even facilitating a 911 call for immediate help. Sometimes people are helped but not in the way that they need to be helped at that particular time. Sometimes it is almost enough, but not enough. This type of help keeps them continually seeking services until the cycle is broken and their needs are appropriately met.

I know this may sound like an advertisement, but this is truly how I feel. The Ada Jenkins Center is a one-stop shop; your needs are assessed, you receive counsel, you are helped as well as followed-up on. I cannot thank my case worker, Cara, enough for all that she did and continues to do for me and Blaze. Much thanks to her co-worker, Michelle, for assisting and backing Cara up. Other thanks to Jenni, Georgia, Janice, and last but not least Willie and Tina for helping keep Blaze hydrated and his tail wagging. This surrogate family is truly needed for myself and blaze, as well as for other individuals and families seeking help.

While in the care of the Ada Jenkins Center, I utilized the computer center, printing services, the food pantry, dental screening, financial assistance, housing referrals, hotel assistance, and transportation referrals. I also used the Center as a safe place to cool off and escape the summer heat.

The Ada Jenkins Center has changed my life and reminded me of God’s promise of Grace, and that no one can ever keep me from that. The Center and its staff and volunteers became a physical reminder that God is with us through green pastures, and He also makes a way to bless us through our valleys. I found hope in my discouragement. I gained endurance through my homelessness. I sought friendship in my loneliness. I gave forgiveness from my disappointment and anger. I am better because I walked through the doors of the Ada Jenkins Center. I asked for help…and they gave it to me.

Saddling Up For A New School Year

By Elizabeth Davis

With August in full force, families are gearing up for a farewell to summer and a return to school.

Education is important, especially when there’s a positive correlation between the levels of education attained and median income. According to the results of a study published by the Mecklenburg County Manager’s Office, county residents with graduate or professional degrees have a median income that is 2.5x greater than that of residents who did not graduate from high school or earn something of equivalent value (such as the GED).

Further, in Mecklenburg County, 11.2% of residents have less than a high school diploma, and of these people, 30.9% live in poverty. Poverty thresholds vary depending on the number of individuals in a household, but for a family of four the national poverty line sits at an income of $23,834, to put things into perspective.

Although high school graduation rates have increased across all races and ethnicities since 2010, with the most recent data (from 2014) showing that 93% of whites, 87.3% of Asians, 82.6% of Blacks and 74.3% of Hispanics are graduating, there is still room for improvement.


Room for improvement? That’s where Ada Jenkins comes in. For more than fifteen years, we have been running our LEARN Works program. Through this program, students in grades 1-8 who demonstrate a need for additional academic support are provided with extra attention and help in their learning endeavors.

Each afternoon begins with snack and quiet reading time. Students are encouraged to choose their own story and to practice critical thinking skills by writing a few sentences about the story at the end of each chapter. After recess on the playground (our kids have been at school for a long time by this point!) instructors and volunteers lead students in guided reading and help with homework.

Our one-on-one focus with students is incredibly beneficial for them. Students are expected to grow 5 points in reading and 3 points in math per year. One boy, John, grew 8 points in reading and 11 points in math in just one semester! Our kids are often smart but they have one of four issues affecting them at home, and sometimes a combination of these issues:

  1. Poverty
  2. Language barriers (over half of our students are Hispanic)
  3. Cultural issues
  4. Learning disabilities

To address poverty and language barriers, we are applying a two-generation approach to breaking the cycle of poverty. Students often have family members enrolled in other programs at Ada Jenkins Center and we have case managers that work specifically with those families to help build success for students and parents simultaneously. We have a bilingual Family Engagement Specialist who serves as a liaison between the LEARN Works and Human Services departments.mario

LEARN Works focuses its efforts under three main goals – to promote academic development, foster personal growth, and provide enrichment experiences. Although LEARN Works does not directly impact the number of students who earn their high school diplomas, it is preparing students early on by instilling in them the determination, as well as providing them with the skills and motivation, important for staying in school.