By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published May 26, 2021
STONE MOUNTAIN—Love of youth inspired Oduntan Gordon, 41, to extend his outreach through a nonprofit called Youth for Humanity.
For 17 years, Gordon has been working with the Columbian Squires, a male youth fraternity of the Knights of Columbus, at Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain. Now the fraternity and nonprofit are partners, seeking to support youth living in Stone Mountain, Clarkston and surrounding areas.
“The need to serve is still there,” said Gordon. “There are people that are suffering, that need help.” Youth for Humanity has “opened my mind to how much more good deeds there are to be done around us,” he said.
Youth for Humanity began in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, nearly 30 students are actively involved in the organization. The majority are middle and high school youth, but the organization is open to working with elementary and college-aged students.
Prior to the pandemic shutdown, youth and volunteers were able to gather together for activities. But when COVID-19 stopped gatherings, the nonprofit shifted focus.
“It forced us to innovate faster,” said Gordon, shifting to more program development. The initiative offers cinematography, educational and financial programs, among others. Most activities have been virtual or outdoors during the pandemic.
“I like being in Youth for Humanity because I get to be part of something bigger than myself,” said Emmanuel Joseph, 15, parishioner of Corpus Christi. He enjoys working in the Stone Mountain Community Garden and video editing. “[Youth for Humanity] offers a lot for youth and makes the community a better place at the same time.”
All Youth for Humanity board members and staff have a connection to Corpus Christi. Some are active parishioners, like Gordon. Peter Melton, a board member, is a former Columbian Squire. Many of the volunteers Gordon met while working with youth, including leaders from the Stone Mountain parish and Holy Cross Church in Atlanta.
The nonprofit seeks to remove challenges faced by underserved youth as they pursue a higher level of education.
“There is a high demand for educational development in the [Clarkston] community,” said Gordon. As many refugee families have non-English speaking parents, it’s important for youth to have support from English-speaking families, he said.
Youth also participate in community service programs through the nonprofit. This includes managing fruit and vegetable plots at the Stone Mountain Community Garden and packing backpacks for the homeless with essential items.
Youth for Humanity is also connecting with other programs in the Clarkston community to provide additional opportunities. Gordon hopes that Catholic and non-Catholic communities will support their mission to help youth become “outstanding and recognized members of their greater community.”
“The Catholic faith has really inspired a lot of people, including myself,” said Gordon. “We believe in our faith and good deeds as well.”