Changing people’s lives through community service

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Robert Noles/Opelika Observer

Shawn Kirkpatrick
Opelika Observer

Getting the dream out there and changing people’s lives. That’s what Jeremy Gray says he wants to achieve in the Jeter community at the Curtis House.  His dream is to create a safe haven for the elderly, adults, and children and to raise awareness of healthy and holistic ways of living. And the beginning of changing lives began earlier this month, as renovations got underway at the Curtis House.
The lot behind the house has already been cleared to make way for a community garden, a chicken coop, exercise turf, a fire pit and a work shed. “My goal is to have a garden for food, the turf area for exercise and a work shop where we would train people who don’t have jobs.” said Gray.
Third Lens Ministries has put together a project plan and blue print for the property and house. The group, along with Gray, started renovations on the inside of the house. They began by tearing down the walls and making the house one big room. When finished, it will be a place for people in the community to come and eat a free meal.
“This summer, I had a feeding program at the park. The kids came to the park every Friday, to shoot basketball, cheer leading, dancing, football and they would be fed a healthy meal. So, we will integrate that in to what we are doing here,” Gray said. “This is not just a house for kids, but for the older community. Whether that would be arts and crafts with the elders in the community or chair yoga, or vocational workshops for the adults in the community looking for jobs.”
Gray wants the Curtis House to be a place that people can walk to and enjoy outdoor activities, sitting around the fire pit and catching up with friends. “It’s all about that village concept,” Gray said. You want to focus on the kids, but also the community as a whole. Kids without parents are just kids without guidance.”
Gray is the great-grandson of Lottie B. Curtis.  Curtis, an Opelika native and A World War II veteran, served the Jeter community by growing and sharing the vegetables and fruit from his backyard garden and farm. He was also known for teaching neighbors to drive, as well as taking them to jobs, shopping malls and other places around town.
When the 800-square- foot house that once belonged to Curtis was empty, Gray jumped in and took over, using it as a place where his great-grandfather’s legacy of giving back could continue in the Jeter community.
Gray says he hopes to have the house renovated by this summer. But he needs more help from individual volunteers, church organizations and donations. The challenges are getting the word out there and finding donors who are interested in what we are doing here,” Gray said.
Gray says anyone that wants to volunteer is welcome to help. He says there are opportunities to tutor, as well as teach leadership and job training. “We’re trying to keep this community going and progressive.
It’s been stagnant the last 14 years and we’re trying to give hope.”

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