The Sandy Springs Mission ('the Mission') was founded by Mount Vernon Baptist Church in April 1999 as a needs-based, evangelical outreach. Targeting disadvantaged families living along the Roswell Road Corridor from Wieuca to Abernathy Roads, the Mission provided food, clothing, ESL classes and shared the good news of Jesus Christ with those that came to its doors.
In April 2001, Felix Lora, the current Executive Director, was hired and the Mission's focus began to shift. Already a number of local organizations were offering broad-based support to deliver food, clothing and other services to this community, but programs for children's needs were lagging especially in the area of education.
As a bi-lingual, ordained minister who himself had experienced first-hand the challenges of living in another country and attending school where the subjects are taught in your second language, Mr. Lora was particularly well-suited to lead the children's program initiatives.
Breaking language barriers
The Roswell Corridor hosts families from around the world with the majority of them speaking Spanish. Because Spanish is so readily spoken, many of the adults learn only functional English. Their children, however, are required to attend school and speak fluently in English. This can be quite problematical for the children as there is little support available to help them with their homework. Their parents can offer little if any help with homework and many children will repeat grades until they become proficient in the language. This is a discouraging set back but one the Mission is dedicated to preventing.
Reaching families through children
"Reaching families through children" became the Mission's motto. A concerted effort was placed on reaching out to the families where they lived to find children who were in needof extra tutoring. Mr. Lora, with his language capabilities, personally visited with parents and children then arranged to provide volunteer tutors from the Mission. Tutoring was made available in common areas of the apartment complexes. In 2001, 12 students began regularly receiving academic support as well as attending Bible study.
Later that year with a $100,000 grant from the Mount Paran Baptist Church, the Mission was able to secure space at the Sentell Baptist Church in the heart of the Roswell corridor. The facility allowed the Mission to undertake more effective after-school programs and to hold activities where large numbers of people could attend. The Mission began providing transportation service to and from the area apartments to the church location.