Early Our House Employee Recalls Beginning of 25 Years Helping Homeless Children
Our House, providing early childhood education and comprehensive support services to homeless children and their parents, celebrates its 25th anniversary in March, and one of its first employees remembers the early days -- and some challenges.
Ruby Clark started working at the Decatur non-profit a week and a half before it opened on March 28, 1988.
"We were so excited," she recalled. "The children came in like they were seeing Christmas for the first time. We didn’t know who was more excited, the children or the staff."
Our House celebrates its 25th anniversary at a gala on March 16, 2013, at The Commerce Club in Downtown Atlanta. For ticket information or to learn more about Our House, visit www.ourhousega.org.
In the early days, there were only two classrooms: one for children 6 weeks to 18 months old and the other for everyone else. The staff was about five people. Ruby worked in the baby room when she first started, and on that first day there were about 10 children.
"We were like fish out of water," Ms. Clark said. "We kind of didn’t know what we were doing, but we did whatever we had to do. If the children got sick, we were the ones who took them to the doctor or the hospital. Eventually we recognized that parents needed to take more accountability."
Parents used to eat breakfast with their children and sometimes prepared the breakfast, Ruby said.
"Ruby Clark was truly a pioneer in helping get Our House on track toward the successful organization it is today," said Tyese Lawyer, executive director. "She and so many others contributed greatly to build the foundation of what Our House is, and that is providing constancy in the lives of homeless children and their parents in metro Atlanta."
Even in the early days, Our House drew attention to its services to children and families experiencing homelessness. Early visitors included the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, baseball great Hank Aaron, and President and Mrs. Carter.
"Executive Director Anne Branscome worked four years without a secretary . . . Everything we did, she did," Ruby recalled. "If she knew our hand was overfilled, she filled the spot."
Within two years, Our House got a van and was able to go pick up the parents and children from the different shelters.
Over the years Ruby says she has loved seeing parents make progress and have hope.
"And, my hope for Our House," she said, "is that it will continue to be able to help parents and their children. God has a plan for this place."