ACSS takes pride in each of the men and women who make new beginnings in our programs, but it is especially significant when one of our VIPs uses his or her experience to help others. In honor of Mother’s Day we celebrate Kathleen Binns, a woman whose experience at ACSS has influenced her entire family and who is now dedicated to serving others.
In the early afternoon at the Boys and Girls club on Lakewood Avenue, it’s sunny and quiet as staff prepare for a stampede of children who will be coming through the doors when school lets out in just a few minutes. A delicious smell travels down the hallway, and for a moment it seems less like the institutional building of an after-school program and more like your mother’s kitchen. Kathleen Binns, a Boys and Girls Club Program Assistant, is working away in the kitchen on a special snack for “her kids.”
The special “snack” seems more like a delicious meal, sandwiches of homemade fried chicken (made with Kathleen’s secret blend of spices) with bacon, ranch, lettuce and tomato. “I don’t know what they’re getting to eat the rest of the day, and I want them to have a special treat. They need to know they’re special, that someone cares about them.” Kathleen is very passionate about her job at the Boys and Girls Club. It was not long ago that she fell on very hard times, and needed the same kind of guidance and motivation she offers to her students each day.
A mother of four grown children, Kathleen’s life has revolved around others for a very long time. Born in Washington, D.C., she spent her childhood moving around as her father’s military career moved them from state to state. She left home young and moved to Nebraska, where she had and raised her four children and lived for the next three decades.
In 2010 Kathleen left her home in Nebraska to help her brother start a business in Atlanta. Just as she was settling into life in a new city, her business opportunity with her brother fell through and she was without money and depending on relatives to take her in. Last year she turned to a local women’s shelter to start over and gain her independence. It was through this program that Kathleen was connected to ACSS and enrolled in our CareerWorks program.
“ACSS brought back skills and knowledge I had forgotten. I had a plan, but ACSS gave it legs and got me motivated.” Kathleen found her job at the Boys and Girls Club through ACSS. Her passion is to serve and empower individuals who are disadvantaged and need a new beginning. She is living on her own and pursuing dreams and goals she had long since put on hold. The program assistant position is currently paying her bills as she takes classes to complete her bachelor’s degree in international business, a pursuit she had started before she became homeless. Kathleen is just one semester away from graduating and plans to pursue her Masters as well. One day, she hopes to develop her own program similar to ACSS.
Kathleen’s new start not only helped her, it is changed the lives of her grown children. After watching his mother’s transformation, her adult son became sober and obtained a job that better supports his family. Inspired by her mother’s educational pursuits, her daughter went back to school to get her college degree as well. “This whole journey made me more aware of how much they were really watching me.” At the Boys and Girls Club Kathleen is doing work that she loves, instilling in her students the motivation that changed her life. “I want them to know that they can do great things, that they’re here for a purpose.”