By Jennifer Falk
Lara Edgeman, a junior at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University, has watched the Brookdale Resource Center in Macon, Ga., transform from an elementary school to a resource center for the homeless.
Edgeman taught third grade at Brookdale Elementary School as part of her major in education. Now she volunteers at the center as part of MerServe, the University’s student-led service programming board.
Classrooms now serve as bedrooms and clothing and hygiene closets, and the cafeteria provides a place to serve and eat meals.
“I think it’s a genius way to use the space,” Edgeman said.
Brookdale Elementary closed in June 2020 and moved to a new location as part of a school merger. The center opened in January as the Brookdale Warming Center to provide meals and shelter from the cold. Now the center also provides health evaluations, educational support, job search assistance and help finding permanent housing.
Edgeman was among nine Mercer students who volunteered at the Brookdale Resource Center on Friday, Dec. 3. They set to work clearing out a room and hallway filled with clothing, linens and hygiene products and placing them in their designated locations. Once empty, the room will be used as an office for a new case manager.
Most of the students have volunteered at Brookdale before.
“I absolutely love serving the community. As someone who comes from an underprivileged family, I want to help,” Lakeeya Brockington, a sophomore majoring in marketing, said as she moved books in the library. Previously, she helped serve lunch at the center.
Gabe Thomas, a senior double-majoring in psychology and criminal justice, said he keeps returning to Brookdale because he can see the impact it has on the people.
“It truly helps individuals of Macon,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of community service, but I feel like (the Brookdale Resource Center) helps the most individuals.”
The building is owned by Macon-Bibb County, with management of the program done by the United Way of Central Georgia Homeless Initiative. As of October, the center had served about 900 individuals. It averages about 100 guests at a time, and about 50 of those are children.
The students’ help has been invaluable, said Charity Lucas, the center’s client service specialist who instructed the Mercer volunteers.
“It makes a huge difference being able to free up time for us to do other things and make space for our case manager and clients,” she said.
This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Mercer University website.