Resident Stories

Nearly 30 years after the revitalization of East Lake began, residents and students continue to benefit from the East Lake Foundation’s holistic work in the neighborhood. Here we highlight just a few of the many experiences from our community.

Katrina Leakes

Resident & Community Support Program & Sheltering Arms East Lake

Katrina has been a resident at The Villages of East Lake for 10 years, regularly attending a variety of classes focused on career advancement and financial management. During her time at the Villages, she has worked several jobs, but couldn’t maintain steady employment because of the need to care for her small children. In 2022, Katrina was hired for an open receptionist position at Sheltering Arms East Lake. “This job is a perfect fit because I can bring my child to school and stay for work,” said Katrina. She continues to participate in financial classes with RCSP as she prepares to accomplish her next goal of home ownership.

Albert Griffith

Resident & Community Support Program

Albert Griffith, affectionately known as Mr. Carl, has lived in The Villages of East Lake for 17 years and loves his community. Mr. Carl enjoys that the community is calm and peaceful with an ideal location and easy access to amenities, goods, and services.

“What I love about the Resident & Community Support Program is the commitment of Jennifer and Tywonia. They do an outstanding job of keeping residents informed about events and opportunities in the community, and I enjoy participating in programs and going on field trips with my neighbors.”

Eric Mack

START:ME East Lake

East Lake resident Eric Mack’s residence is home to a sprawling one-man nursey and pop-up shop with one of the city’s best selections of rare and unusual plants called the Kai Garden. For Mack, a nationally renowned mixed-media artist, it started five years ago, when he planted a small patch of sweet potato vines and simple annuals like violas and petunias after the death of his stillborn son, Kai.

Mack did not originally intend to sell his plants, but his collection quickly outgrew his small yard and basement nursery. In the spring of 2021, his wife suggested he offload some to clear up space and cover the expenses of his newfound hobby, and his business took off. He recently finished Start:ME East Lake accelerator training and mentorship program and plans on installing an automated irrigation system and commercial greenhouse in his yard to keep up with demand. While his business is growing, “It’s not about the cash,” he says. “Just nurturing and taking care of plants, moving soil around and noticing what needs water or fertilizer that day reminds me that my son is here, that this garden is him.”

William Wesley

Resident & Community Support Program

After William Wesley and his family moved into The Villages of East Lake in 2019, Wesley participated in nearly every program that the Resident & Community Support Program (RCSP) offered to prepare himself for employment opportunities and future home ownership.

A few years ago, his wife connected him with a position at Delta Community Credit Union and his career took off. He expressed interest in leading their community development business and established a partnership with RCSP to bring new financial education resources to Villages residents. He was also able to allocate grant resources to the community to support COVID-19 relief, STEAM programming at Drew Charter School, and the Foundation’s Party on the Green. Recently, Wesley and his family purchased their first home, making him the first in his family in three generations to do so.

Wesley says, “My life has come full circle. In just five years, I’ve gone from underemployed to teaching financial education. I have a beautiful home, stable income with health benefits, and my children are flourishing at Drew Charter School. Our family is not just surviving anymore, we’re thriving.”

East Lake Foundation
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