Sean Dietrich, known more commonly as Sean of the South, will be in Columbus at the St. Luke Ministry center on Nov. 15 for a fund raiser for Project Greenelight. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at CTV Beam, www.projectgreenelight.org and at the door. All proceeds help the non-profit organization serve the foster community in East Alabama.
Dietrich is a columnist, novelist, and podcast host known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work as appeared in Newsweek, Southern Living, Garden and Gun, The Tallahassee Democrat, Good Grit, South Magazine, Alabama Living, the Birmingham News, Thom Magazine, the Mobile Press Register, and he has authored nine books. He is the creator of the Sean of the South Podcast.
Project Greenelight began in the 1980s as the Cora Reid Greene Home.
“Judge George Greene was the Children and Family judge at the time. He would have to remove children from their families. The kids would be put on a bench outside the court waiting because there wasn’t a foster placement immediately available to them,” Project Greenelight Executive Director Jessica Taylor said. “He would tell his mother about this over dinner. She wanted to do something about it. They created an emergency shelter and that’s where children went. As government changed its regulations on placement, the transition of group homes went away, and the organization stopped serving in that capacity.”
The name has changed over the years, but the mission has always been the same: to serve the foster children in the area.
Today, Taylor said the main area of service is the visitation center, also known as The Cottage.
“Biological parents are able to have visitation with their biological children in a space that would encourage families to come together and have support if we see they are struggling,” Taylor said. “We have a kitchen and we encourage parents to prepare a meal for the child. It may be as easy as heating up a pizza, but it’s the act of caring for their child. We’re trying to get parents to understand that their child has basic needs.”
In addition, the Cottage has a play room for toddlers, a game room, a play ground, and a place for art. Project Greenelight also offers a clothing and baby closet for children who are in the foster system or are under guardianship care. Visitations are set up through the Department of Human Resources.
One thing that is new to Project Greenelight is a program that assists foster care children who have recently graduated from high school with college.
“I learned that children in the foster care system can go to college for free. Only 10 percent take advantage of that and only two percent actually finish the program. That’s a small number,” Taylor said. “There’s a cycle where kids who grow up in the foster system often have children who end up in foster care as well. How can we break that cycle? I think it’s in education. You can’t make someone go to school, but if they’re aware of the support and the opportunity, they may be more willing to try. We’re very excited about this opportunity this spring.”
Funds from the upcoming event will help with the services the organization offers. Taylor said the organization can also use help from people who want to volunteer.
For more information about the event or Project Greenelight, call 334-560-3062.
Read about Jessica Taylor as the new Executive Director in next week’s edition.