by Chris Keller, Community Relations Manager

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“Every Tuesday I know that the Creativity Club empowers the kids at Safe Haven to be kids. Not homeless kids. Not kids who are failing class or have anger issues. Not kids who believe they have no future. JUST kids. That is invaluable.” – TJ Swanson, Safe Haven Housing & Program Associate

IMG_1119April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, but that is EVERY month at Safe Haven! Volunteers are essential to the mission and work of Safe Haven Family Shelter. We count on them to prepare meals, help at events and more. Volunteers play an especially essential role in our children’s program. We recently nominated two of our volunteers, a mother-daughter team, for the Mary Catherine Strobel Awards through Hands on Nashville. These awards recognize Middle Tennessee volunteers who give their time and talents to improve the community. Whether or not they win in the direct service category, we wanted to share a little about the amazing volunteer role that Susie and Sammi Garland play at Safe Haven.

For the past two years, Susie Garland and her daughter Sammi have been an inspiration to children who are experiencing homeless. Each week, they empower these children to build self-esteem and obtain a sense of normalcy during an otherwise traumatic time in their lives by planning, coordinating, and administering Creativity Club, an arts and crafts program at Safe Haven. The club has morphed into not only an opportunity to create arts, but also to build character and leadership skills, expand the ability to work in teams and instill an appreciation for others.

Susie and Sammi designed the Creativity Club program. With the children’s input, they plan and facilitate each meeting, and they often bring in other volunteers with varying expertise to help out.

Through Creativity Club, Susie and Sammi have helped children at Safe Haven in a variety of ways. Not only are our children granted the opportunity to learn art and enhance their skills, they are taught a new way to deal with the trauma in their lives through the therapeutic benefits of art. The children display increased confidence, improved social skills and a better outlook for their own futures. The confidence gained in Creativity Club has helped many of children focus on their individual goals and improve academically. For children experiencing homelessness, this is extremely important as most suffer from anxiety, worry about their futures, suffer academically, and elect to isolate themselves from their peers. Creativity Club has helped ease these issues for more than 100 children last year alone.

We appreciate Susie and Sammi for giving their time and expertise. The Creativity Club empowers children to express themselves, learn a new skill and builds confidence. Thank you Susie and Sammi for giving the children at Safe Haven a chance to “just be a kid.”