LIFT Youth Center Inc., in conjunction with the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, April 30, at 9 a.m. at 7197 Nashville St. in Ringgold. An open house will immediately follow until noon for those who wish to take a tour and meet the LIFT staff but can’t make the 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting.

How it started

LIFT’s story began in 2018, born from the heart of a mother and artist who longed to see the community her children are growing up in become more. She dreamt of more community, of more support, of more diversity, of more hope and help for those who need it most.

The idea immediately grew as a group of parents worked diligently to form a founding board of directors and establish the organization as a 501c3 nonprofit. While the journey at times felt slow, LIFT was working hard to build a solid foundation to ensure that the mission and vision would not only become a reality but that it would take root in our community as a lasting entity.

They wished to provide services for teens in our community that were lacking: a place with a mission to create opportunities for students to be Loved as they are, Inspired to be more, Found in community, and Trusted to make a difference.

The vision is to provide a drop-in after-school youth center in Ringgold for 5th-12th grade students, where LIFT will foster an environment of inclusion, positive self-worth, and self-discovery within our youth while facilitating inner growth to prepare them for future success. In the fall of 2019, the LIFT board of directors expanded, an advisory council and support team were formed as LIFT leadership were on the cusp of making giant leaps forward.

Beginning to take root

In the spring of 2020, shortly after launching LIFT’s start-up capital campaign, LIFT connected with three family foundations with local roots who provided substantial support for their start-up phase. Just like that, the Claudia Nance Rollins Youth Center was born.

2020 was full of adversity for many and while it did slow down progress, LIFT kept making advancements. LIFT Youth Center Inc. was awarded grants from Dollar General Literacy Foundation, North Georgia Electric Member Foundation’s Operation Round Up, and became a funded State of Hope site with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Tina Pinkston, LIFT’s executive director, said after winning the State of Hope designation, “If we can create a safe space where a student can learn their worth and believe in their potential, all while having fun and making connections to other students, ... then we will have given them a great gift. LIFTing these students up, helping their families connect to resources, building a tribe of support as we go. … This youth center will be a game-changer for our entire community.”

She said she has been amazed at the support that has already come in even before opening the doors of the Center.

LIFT Youth Center Inc. has developed a foundational group of community members who provide a voice that is shaping our programming. LIFT established Village Leadership in June 2020, a group of invested adults who bring ideas, influence, and local context. Soon after we launched Student Leadership, a group of exceptional youth who fully embrace the mission and vision of LIFT and who are willing to help lead, guide, and grow our organization. This group is a representation of the potential diversity in our community, creating a student voice representing as many niches as possible. LIFT wants to authentically partner with these youth to build their leadership skills. They will be involved in meaningful opportunities to plan, carry out, and evaluate program activities. LIFT believes that student ideas and feedback are critical to our success. Their interests and needs are at the center of our approach.

What’s next?

It has been a truly phenomenal journey so far. LIFT is thrilled to now be able to say that we will be holding a ribbon-cutting with the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce on April 30 at 9 a.m. LIFT will also be holding an open house immediately following the ribbon cutting until noon.

“LIFT is a beautiful movement, and we wish to celebrate this ribbon-cutting with you, our supporters and our community.” said Chrissie Brown, LIFT marketing and development director.

LIFT is excited to start working with Student Leadership in May and will hold open student events this summer. LIFT wishes to spend the summer providing opportunities for local students to get to know the staff and organization as well as letting us know what they hope to get out of LIFT.

On Saturday, Aug. 7, LIFT Youth Center Inc. will hold its grand opening. More information will be provided closer to the event. The grand opening kicks off LIFT’s normal hours of operation and begins providing Catoosa County 5th-12th graders and their families this much needed resource.

Want to know how you can help LIFT? Become a monthly supporter and help us make an impact in our community. As summer events are planned, visit our website at www.LIFT-ringgold.today to stay in the loop, to get involved, to get connected, or to sign-up as a monthly donor. LIFT Youth Center Inc relies heavily on local financial support in order to provide these student and community services. Will you join us in making LIFT’s hopes possible?

Nick Millwood, mayor of Ringgold and local middle school teacher, has been supportive of LIFT from the beginning. He said, “LIFT is working toward fulfilling a need I see in our community every day. When a group of people come together to make a difference for the at-risk youth in our community, we should all ask what we can do to support that goal. The best thing we can do right now is hop on board with this movement and show our youth that there is hope when they have so many reasons to believe there is none. LIFT is stepping into that space and providing opportunities for our next generation to experience love, guidance and an opportunity to see that we do care. This is an opportunity to make all the difference.”

LIFT is going to be a force for good in Catoosa County. We hope you will find a way to participate. On behalf of the students we will help to flourish, the parents and guardians we will support, and the community that will be strengthened along the way, in advance of your support, we thank you for making all this possible.

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