By Lynn Hobbs, photos contributed by ATLAS Ministry, published in the November/December 2021 issue of Lakelife magazine.
About 15 years ago, Mike Daniel and Jim Meadows felt a calling from God to help hurting people in Greene County. A board of directors was established, and ATLAS Ministry opened in downtown Greensboro for that purpose. “The problem was, they were beginning to see the same faces with the same problems repeatedly,” explained ATLAS Executive Director Ryan Gibaldo. “So, they realized that providing counseling and financial assistance for each immediate crisis was not helping these people reach their full potential as God intended.”
The Ministry’s efforts changed to proactive instead of reactive and to focus on long-term, sustainable change in a limited number of families. Now, Greensboro ATLAS Ministry’s programs are designed to equip children for success at every stage of their development from birth to adulthood, while supporting and equipping their parents and entire family. “Statistics say that 85 percent of non-profit dual generational programs are effective,” noted ATLAS Development Director Amanda Lomonaco.
Established in Iowa in 2000, there are now 15 ATLAS communities across the U.S. Its name is an acronym for Attaining Truth, Love And Self- control. Each local ATLAS community adapts its programs to serve the unique needs of its particular community, so Greensboro’s is different from other ATLAS organizations. However, they all are Christ- centered, prayer-based, spirit-led, mentor-based, non- denominational, and locally governed and supported. Greensboro’s ATLAS focuses on helping children reach success, “but their biggest support system is their parents, so our mission is to equip children and their families,” Ryan acknowledged. ATLAS programs prepare each child through progressive academic success combined with their knowledge and faith in the Word of God. “We strive to help them find and achieve their God-given purpose,” Ryan said. “We are all designed differently, and God made us uniquely gifted with different purposes.” With that in mind, the program for each age group contains checkpoints to ensure each individual is ready for the next step. “Nowadays, everyone wants everything instantly, but this isn’t a microwave model we follow,” Ryan emphasized. “Our model is focused on the long term, to see a generation with a biblical worldview to change the cycle and live as God intended. It takes relationships.”
From education and resources during the mother’s pregnancy, to academic and spiritual support throughout her child’s early and teen years, all the way to opportunities for the Lawton Scholarship for college, Ryan and program directors Shasta Tillery (Early Learners program) and Gerald Davis (CLC program) and their team members, build those relationships and develop the growth through daily, weekly, and monthly visits, meetings, classes, and activities with individual students/ parents and groups. A new addition is a residency program, designed specifically for young adults who grew up in ATLAS and graduated high school. The two-year residency allows the student to put into practice in the real world all they’ve learned through ATLAS and to lead from within the program. “They learn how to manage finances, manage conflict, while being supported by mentors who talk with them through their young adult life,” Ryan explained.
The first resident, Idalet Lazaro, started in August. “I love working as a residency student with ATLAS because I’m gaining the hands-on experience I need to work in the classroom,” Idalet said. “Heather Boswell is my mentor and she gives me the support system I need to be successful working with the ATLAS students and with my own academics at University of North Georgia. The Residency program allows me to immediately apply what I have learned and relate coursework to real experiences.” Greensboro’s ATLAS has helped thousands of children and is currently serving approximately 250 students thanks to donated funds from individuals in the community and local churches. “Some people have been giving for 15 years,” Amanda said. “And we want to thank the local churches; they are huge supporters of ours.”
To learn more on specific programs, employment or volunteer opportunities, or to donate funds to the mission, visit atlasministry.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-453-0581.