Light of the Village

Mon, 12/16/2013 - 1:00pm
Shamichael Kittler

Once a working crack house, and situated in a neighborhood fraught with crime, gangs, and poverty, Light of the Village school has survived and thrived for 12 years as a beacon of hope for many of Prichard, Ala.’s at-risk youth.

The Christian-based academy helps teenagers return to the traditional classroom and assists drop-outs with earning their GED or high school diploma. Light of the Village also provides teens with job placement, life skills classes, and addiction recovery services. A gang intervention program is also run in conjunction with Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.

After meeting founder and executive director John Eads and visiting the school, Spring Hill College senior Shamichael Kittler was so moved by the organization’s mission that she and three classmates developed a service project based on the organization’s most pressing administrative needs.

“Prichard is known as one of the most dangerous cities in Alabama,” says Kittler. “Youth here need a safe haven. Light of the Village offers a great place for kids who desperately need positive role models.”

Eads and his wife, Delores, a youth ministry director, founded the nonprofit organization in 2007. The couple had been involved in prison and inner-city ministry for more than a decade before opening Light of the Village.

“The community calls Light of the Village ‘God's house and their home.’ That is the best compliment we could hear,” says Eads.  “The Lord is truly alive in this place in both word and deed.  It is a beautiful thing to know that His light shines in the lives of those we serve.”

“Light of the Village doesn’t exist without community volunteers,” says Kittler. “When we started assessing needs and talking to staff members, we discovered that they didn’t have a formal volunteer handbook. It was the perfect service project for our team.”

The handbook serves as a reminder of the nonprofit’s goals and mission, as well as outlines Light of the Village’s many programs and services. Kittler spearheaded the project along with classmates Chasity Douyon, Twarner Witherspoon, and Melaine Parker.

“Since 2003, more than 5,000 volunteers have served The Lord through this ministry, without incident,” says Eads. “The new handbook is greatly appreciated. We will use it to help orient new volunteers and provide them with guidelines so that they can offer genuine and wise service.”

Volunteers sign the handbook as a statement that they understand the expectations set forth by Light of the Village. “It’s something tangible. A document volunteers can keep with them and refer to,” says Kittler. “The organization’s policies are spelled out, along with duties and responsibilities. Everything is outlined, down to attendance, communication, and dress code.”

Spring Hill College Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Jamie Franco-Zamudio supervised the group’s work. “It’s been a joy to check in with Shamichael and her team each week. They developed a project that not only met the needs of the service site, but inspired each of the team members personally and professionally,” says Dr. Zamudio. “What I found most impressive is their shared passion for social justice issues and the way that Shamichael and her team found a way to successfully collaborate among each other and with the site.” 

Local youth attend Light of the Village programs at no cost. More than 40 students attend the organization’s after-school sessions, where they receive help with homework and tutoring on various subjects. During the summer, more than 100 children enroll in Bible camp.

Other projects include a community garden, weekly Bible study, field trips, and when needed, assistance for young people who need a safe living space. In addition to the Prichard location, Light of the Village has a second site in Chickasaw, Ala.

For more information about how you can help make a difference for local children and youth through Light of the Village, visit www.lightofthevillage.org.