LIFT Youth Center Inc. in Ringgold was recently selected to become a designated State of Hope site and to receive funding to aid with project implementation.
Tina Pinkston, LIFT’s executive director, said, “This is perfect timing for such a wonderful vote of support from a statewide professional entity. We will be opening our facility in Ringgold this spring for its initial stages and to know DFCS (Division of Family and Children Services) is behind us says a lot. The Claudia Nance Rollins Youth Center will be the first of its kind and the beginning of a legacy of hope building which we intend to ripple throughout our community in many beautiful ways.”
During the third round of solicitations for “big ideas” from communities, LIFT Youth Center Inc. submitted a proposal to serve the Catoosa County area by opening a drop-in after-school youth center in Ringgold for fifth- through 12th-grade students where LIFT will foster an environment of inclusion, positive self-worth, and self-discovery within youth while facilitating inner growth to prepare them for future success.
LIFT’s mission is to create opportunities for youth to be Loved as they are, Inspired to be more, Found in community, and Trusted to make a difference.
More than 200 applications were submitted across the state of Georgia, with approximately 10 percent of the applicants being selected to receive funding. LIFT Youth Center Inc. was honored to be one of only a handful who received the highest level of funding.
“We were very impressed with the applicants this year,” said DFCS Director Tom Rawlings. “Some are large and comprehensive, and others are smaller grassroots organizations who are just getting started, but all are changing lives for the better in their communities.”
The State of Hope initiative aims to transform Georgia into a collection of communities where children and families have all they need to thrive and succeed. Innovative local strategies and partnerships are key to achieving that goal and are asked to submit “big ideas” that focus on improving the lives of children and families in one or more of four categories: education, trauma-informed practice, quality caregiving, and economic self-sufficiency.
Andy Johnson, Catoosa County DFCS director, said, “We are excited for the opportunity to partner with such a wonderful organization. LIFT is dedicated to meeting the needs of the students in Catoosa County. By offering after-school programming, intentional mentoring and youth development activities, LIFT is on the front lines of child protection and student success, and providing a secure place for students to grow and belong.”
The State of Hope initiative was started in 2018 through a partnership between the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Georgia State University’s Center for Professional Excellence, and Georgia Family Connection Partnership. Currently, 253 organizations have been designated as State of Hope sites and belong to the larger community, the Hope Ecosystem.
“Prevention programming, resiliency building, Positive Youth Development practices— these are all key ideas in the work we will do at our center to support, encourage and empower our students to become their healthiest selves,” Pinkston said. “We will be creating a unique, diverse, and inclusive environment of safety, self-worth, and personal growth for all participants. It’s going to just ooze HOPE in every way, so it’s a natural fit to be included in the Hope Ecosystem. What we have seen so far is a huge amount of encouragement from the professionals and agencies who serve children and families — our community believes in its young people — at our center, those young people will have a new opportunity to feel and believe that is true.”
Once open, LIFT will invite the public to a ribbon-cutting event as well as hosting a ticketed kick-off gathering. Staff will spend the spring working with a group of student leaders who will help identify needs, shape programming plans, and promote the center. Adult volunteers, tutors, and mentors will be vetted and bridges to partnering organizations will be built as they gather resources and referral sources. They are actively inviting the community to reach out with information on student leaders, resources, or funding which may benefit their mission.
Kelly Bomar, a Ringgold City councilman and president of LIFT’s board of directors, said this about the State of Hope designation and LIFT’s effort to build community bridges. “Part of the mission of the State of Hope program is to cultivate family-centered support systems by connecting, equipping and nurturing diverse community collaborators,” Bomar said. “LIFT’s vision is a powerful complement to that goal. As an elected official, it strikes me as the perfect example of a public/private collaboration for the benefit of the whole community.”