When Jamita Martin's husband died six years ago, she started to worry about what would happen to her son Travis without her help. Inspired to help her son succeed, she created Blake's House of Independence to help others like him.
Travis is severely and developmentally delayed on the Autism spectrum, and yet, Martin has seen him grow into self-sustainability as a result of participating in Blake's House. She knew that if Travis ever needed anything, his older brothers would help, but Martin also wanted to equip Travis to succeed on his own.
Hence in 2013, Blake's House was born. It was named after her son Travis, whose middle name is Blake, and it provides an atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement and support for clients.
"The ultimate goal was to set up an entity where when I'm gone, Travis and other special needs adults will have a place to live and transportation can pick them up," Martin said. "I wanted to put something together that would help them not solely depend on their families."
The nonprofit provides programs and services for adults, and this past summer, they opened their second campus in Calhoun, serving individuals in Northwest Georgia and even reaching Chattanooga. Their first location is in Marietta, serving over five counties.
Blake's House provides employment support, resume advice, transportation, transition assistance, social adjustment techniques and job training.
Martin said they get clients referred from Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, as well as the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. And since their beginning, the organization has helped employee special needs adults at places like Kroger, McDonald's, Ruby Tuesdays, the Atlanta Braves stadium and local restaurants.
Aside from offering job services that help with interviews, applications and employment, Blake's House also offers classes during weekdays that include lessons on social skills, art and finances.
When stepping into the Calhoun campus' building, one will find artwork, home decor and specialized T-shirts designed by clients to sell. All proceeds from their store go back into the organization.
Teresa Hall, the Calhoun campus coordinator, said she hopes Calhoun will see an expansion of the products clients make and sell, eventually developing into a full blown thrift store. Hall also wants to see local apartments and housing options become available for clients.
"Our biggest struggle is convincing employers to hire our clients," Martin said. "Some people think it's a liability which it's no more a liability than hiring (anyone)."
Yet, though Blake's House has run into their share of obstacles, Martin has seen her son grow as an individual through the organization.
"Travis is much more independent. I feel very comfortable that he's going to be totally okay," Martin said of her son. "He warms food in the microwave, calls me and he's a hard worker."
Martin also said she is glad to have Hall at the Calhoun location, saying the coordinator cares more than some parents do.
Another worker in Calhoun is Shelley Barton, who instructs classes for clients, teaching them how to manage money and how to create something that can be sold. Barton assists clients working with the nonprofit's printing machine, which allowing clients to make specialized t-shirts and helps them practice their measurement skills.
Martin, who not only serves as the founder but also the CEO of the organization, said the Calhoun campus needs more clients in order to stay open. And according to her, if the word was spread about the nonprofit, adults who need the services provided could partner with Blake's House to get the help they need.
"You see a change in (the clients) just from getting attention," Martin said, explaining how the nonprofit benefits clients. "Someone that really cares is helping them, talking to them about money, about how to be a good citizen, how to deal with struggles. There's a lot of compassion here."
Blake's House in Calhoun is located at 100 Richardson Road, and can be contacted at 706-295-6400 or emailed at Helen@blakeshouseofindependence.com.
Around 9:45 Wednesday night, a married couple was crossing Ga. 53, not using a crosswalk, when the wife, 58, was struck by a vehicle. She received life-threatening injuries and was taken to Advent-Health Gordon immediately.
At 9:54 p.m., the woman died while being taken to the hospital, according to Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle, who said the department's investigation of the incident has yet to be completed. Pyle said when EMS left the scene to take her to the hospital, paramedics said she wouldn't survive.
Pyle said the couple was from Canada and were traveling to Florida. They were staying in a hotel off of Ga. 53 for the night and planned to continue their travels today. Pyle said they had just finished eating dinner at the Applebee's, 1008 Ga. 53, and were walking back to their hotel when the woman was struck.
The woman's husband told her not to walk yet, according to Pyle, but she walked into the road anyway. One lane of traffic stopped for her, but the second lane couldn't see her until too late.
Pyle said the husband was too intoxicated to drive and was taken to the hospital by officers. The husband didn't give many personal details.
The name of the victim and her husband had yet to be released Thursday afternoon.
Pyle said an accident report would be released as soon as the CPD completed its investigation.
A local teen is hoping to inspire the community to get more involved in supporting those less fortunate through a community service project she has been working on for the last several months.
"I've always had a caring heart. It's hard to see people struggle," said Savannah Lowery. "I try to help in every way that I can."
Lowery, a Gordon County 4-H'er and senior at Southeast Whitfield High School, has already reached her goal of putting together 100 personal care bags, stuffed with various hygiene items, for homeless individuals in the community — she had 110 packed as of Tuesday. And with just over a month to go before the project deadline, she is hoping more people will be willing to donate items like toothbrushes, mouthwash, socks, razors and Band-Aids.
Each bag contains at least nine personal care items.
"Since the bags are not due until May it is her hope to exceed her goal and make a positive social impact for those in need in her community," her mother, Dawn Lowery, said in an email. "Savannah has worked very hard on collecting and putting together these personal care bags. I have watched her collect donations and work late into the night putting these bags together."
Once the May 10 project deadline comes, the bags will be taken to the Gordon County 4-H office and distributed to local shelters to be handed out to homeless individuals.
"It makes me feel good because I know as many people as I can help will get what they need," Savannah said. "Because they can't get stuff like that. It makes me feel like I'm helping."
Helping the homeless is close to Savannah's heart, considering her father, who died of cancer several years ago, was homeless at one point in his life.
"It's a memorable thing," she said. "It also makes me feel good because he was stuck in that same situation and if he was alive he'd want me to do that."
The long hours of working on this project has also had a positive impact on Savannah, who was the victim of a violent crime last summer and has been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression since the incident. It has helped to turn her mind away from the trauma of her past and put her attention toward achieving a goal, which is both beneficial to her community and herself.
"All this that I do really helps me," Savannah said. "Helping out people it just brings me goodness and joy and makes me feel better."
From the start, Savannah wanted to take on a project that would exemplify what locals can do to make a positive community impact, that through simple acts, the lives of fellow residents could be uplifted, she said.
"She knows what it is to struggle," her mother said, adding that Savannah was physically abused by her father before her parents split up.
Savannah has a deep love for the arts, namely music and theater, which she has been involved with both at her old school, Gordon Central, and at Southeast. Both outlets are ways for her to express her emotions, she said.
Though Savannah is still deciding on what her future after high school holds, she always want for her giving spirit to be a part for her life.
"She was not prompted to do this," her mother said. "She did it on her own."
Those wishing to donate to Savannah's project can contact her mother, Dawn Lowery, by phone at 706-263-4252 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.