Happy birthday LightHouse!


Three women, a single vision and unique passion launched a program for children in Ledbetter Heights nearly 30 years ago.

They along with dozens of other volunteers and donors gathered this week to celebrate the LightHouse, which has been part of Volunteers of America for 25 years this year. In that time thousands of children have found academic help, guidance with life and lots of love.

“This is a story of faith that everyone has something to give for the benefit of this community, faith that the community would bring assets to help our most vulnerable members, and faith that in showing love to others there is no stumbling,” said Founder Paula Hickman, now executive director of the Community Foundation.

Hickman along with Jeanie Hamel and Leslie Akin each shared their early memories of coming together in the mid-1980s with a mission to help the children in the Ledbetter Heights. All they knew was education had to be the starting point.

“None of us knew how we were going to do it,” Hamel said. “We just kept our vision.”

Akin quickly realized the children wouldn’t be the only ones getting an education in tenacity, love and dignity.

“They refused to be defined by their environment,” she said.

And current LightHouse kids prove their risks were well worth it. Last year, the program served about 600 children at six different sites. Of those, 99 percent stayed in school and the average GPA was 2.9.

Mar’tavious, a fifth grader who has attended the program since he was in Kindergarten, credits the LIghtHouse with helping him excel in school. To those who make the program a reality, he said thank you.

“They have done a wonderful job,” he said. “These are some of the best people.”

Hamel encouraged anyone who hasn’t spend time in the LightHouse to volunteer.

“You will live a richer life because of it.”

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