By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 16, 2009
Catholic businesses and organizations throughout the country continue to feel the brunt of the current economic situation, and the Solidarity School in Sandy Springs is no exception.
The independent school features a Catholic-driven program designed to prepare 3-, 4- and 5-year-old Hispanic children with the English language skills to enter the public or private school system grade-ready.
By providing beginning English instruction at age 3, with incremental levels of immersion into the language and ultimately the use of all materials in English by kindergarten level, the program seeks to prepare students to begin kindergarten or first grade without English as a Second Language tracking.
The Solidarity School is independent of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and has been funded entirely by philanthropy since its inception in 2001. Families contribute on a sliding scale, but none can match the cost of the preschool without the help of donors.
“With the economy the way it is, the donations have decreased,” said Jamie Arthur, head of the school, adding that the size of the school will have to be cut for next year due to current financial struggles.
But she has found a way to enhance exposure and donations for the school, which opened with only 12 students and has grown to serve nearly 100.
Earlier this year the school teamed up with the business partners of Montaluce, a 400-acre residential development located about an hour north of Atlanta, to create a unique way to bring financial aid to the institution.
Rob Beecham, chief operating officer of Atlanta-based Beecham Builders and a partner involved with Montaluce, said, “To be involved with charity has always been important to my family.”
So Beecham and Montaluce have placed one of their Tuscan-style villas up for raffle to help raise money for the Solidarity School, which has an important mission, Arthur and Beecham agreed.
The villa that will be raffled off is being built near the entrance of the Montaluce property and overlooks a vineyard. Valued at nearly $600,000, the home, when completed later this year, will feature a gourmet kitchen, hand-finished wood floors, handmade wood cabinets, an outdoor living space with fire pit and Italian clay tile roofing.
Nestled against the Chattahoochee National Forest in Dahlonega, Montaluce allows residents to purchase land for pre-planned and custom-built homes. Hundred-year-old oaks shade much of the land as vineyards for Montaluce’s own winery spread across the hills. Feelings of freedom and peace can be felt driving through the property, which has been built to look very much like a piece of Tuscan countryside in Italy.
Beecham and his partners, including his father, his brother Brent, and Bobby Greenway, took care in preserving the land, which was formerly used as pastureland.
“The biggest treasure of Montaluce is nature,” Beecham said. “We really want to be good stewards of this land.”
“Why would I knock down a tree that is more beautiful than anything I could build?” he chuckled.
Arthur said the school was very careful about putting all of the legal matters in order before signing off on the raffle. It was a tedious process but one she hopes will greatly benefit the work of the Solidarity School.
“We just could not find any negatives,” she said about the project.
Raffle tickets can be purchased at the school’s Web site for $50 per entry. There will be a drawing on Nov. 2 to announce the winner. The grand prize is the Tuscan home as well as $100,000, a package worth nearly $700,000. The second-prize winner will be awarded a complimentary weekend for up to six people at Montaluce, which includes lodging, lunch and dinner at its on-site restaurant. A dinner for two at Montaluce and one case of inaugural Montaluce wines will be given to the third-place winner.
Both Arthur and Beecham are excited to be involved with the project, and Arthur feels this raffle will help protect the reputation and the mission of Solidarity School.
“It’s an absolute win-win,” said Beecham.
For more information on the school and raffle, visit www.solidarityschool.org. For more information on Montaluce, visit www.montaluce.com.