Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Thomas Priest.
Lauren, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Atlanta almost two years ago. I was raised by two Cleveland public school teachers, who taught me the importance of education and giving back to your community. Both of my parents weren’t “just” teachers — they were coaches, after-school tutors, mentors — the kinds of teachers who quickly become family to many of their students. Watching how dedicated and committed my parents were to their students and the communities where they taught really helped shape me into the person I am today.
While I didn’t become a teacher, I found my way into the nonprofit industry. I bounced around a bit after I received my undergraduate degree, but the first time I truly felt fulfilled in my career was when I started working at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. There, I had the opportunity to work alongside some amazing professionals whose dedication and commitment reminded me of my parents. I had several colleagues who doubled as mentors and felt like family, and I gained invaluable experience for five years.
When I moved to Atlanta, one of the hardest parts was leaving the Greater Cleveland Food Bank behind. It took me a few months to find a career opportunity that I felt had the potential for growth and fulfillment I had received at the food bank. But then I met Derek Duncan, the executive director at Trinity Community Ministries. Derek called me into an interview, and I fell in love with the mission, environment, and people that I met. I saw the potential of a small nonprofit with a big heart and an opportunity to grow and change Atlanta and the world for the better. Trinity Community Ministries is a residential recovery program that is helping homeless men reclaim their lives and return to their families and communities as mentors and leaders.
Just over a year later, I serve as the Development Manager at Trinity Community Ministries. I have the honor of coming to work every day and doing fulfilling, meaningful work. I get to grow and learn each day from my colleagues, our residents and alumni, board members, volunteers, donors, and community partners. Having my office located at Trinity House-Big Bethel means that I get to watch each resident transform and grow throughout the week, and I get to watch the money that I raise from our generous donors put to great use in helping men achieve sobriety, self-sufficiency, and stability in their lives. I have the pleasure of working with amazing people across our organization and watching the world change for the better every single day.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
If you’re not encountering challenges, you’re not growing! I have had personal struggles, and faced difficult situations in my professional life, throughout my career. What has helped (and continues to help) me overcome these challenges is my network of supportive family, friends, and colleagues. I have learned that nobody succeeds on their own, but the best thing you can do is to build a supportive “village” around yourself with people that motivate you, give you great advice, and truly want to see you succeed.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Trinity Community Ministries (TCM) – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
As Development Manager, I work with our Development Committee and my colleagues to raise funds that support the work of Trinity Community Ministries. Most of our funding comes from generous individuals, such as Honorary Board members, TEAM Dinner volunteers, and participants at our annual Trinity Combine event.
The Trinity Combine is our signature fundraising event which features ten athletic events as a customized ‘pro day’ for competitors. Athletes raise money from their networks and then get to participate in this really fun, unique event. This year, the Combine will be on May 11 at Georgia Tech; you can find more information at: https://www.thetrinitycombine.com/.
The Honorary Board is a group of about 200 truly generous community members who donate $1,000 each year and attend two networking breakfasts annually. What’s unique about the Honorary Board Breakfasts is that members network with each other, as well as our residents and alumni. We have great food, great conversations, and then we listen to great speakers- one alumni of the program, and one inspirational keynote speaker. Last fall, our keynote speaker was former professional golfer Larry Nelson, and this spring we’ll have former NFL player Bryan Jean-Pierre (it’s not always an athlete, just successful community members). You can learn more about the Honorary Board and our next breakfast at: https://www.tcmatlanta.org//.
TEAM Dinners are an opportunity to get together with a group (could be a religious group, your colleagues, family, anybody really) and bring dinner to Trinity House-Big Bethel. You eat with the residents and learn more about them and the program. TEAM Dinners are the best way to get involved with Trinity Community Ministries if you’ve never heard of us before. I can guarantee you will walk away with new friends and a very different perception of homelessness and substance abuse. You can learn more and register here: https://www.tcmatlanta.org/t-e-a-m-dinners.
In terms of our program, there are a few things that set Trinity Community Ministries apart from other nonprofits. We call ourselves “a tough program for tough times,” but there’s a lot of love and brotherhood in this building. In addition to providing homeless men with shelter, food, and access to hygiene items, we also help them to eliminate long-term barriers to self-sufficiency. They attend individual and group therapy, and we help them obtain things like medical care, identification documents, employment training and skills, and so many other things. We also make sure that when they leave our program, they’re set up for success with things like a savings account and that they’re connected to our alumni network- called the Kalonji (Man of Victory) Brotherhood.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
TCM is in the midst of some really exciting changes and growth. We’re currently completing a strategic planning process, which will guide us through several improvements and areas of growth over the next three years. I’m really excited to be a part of the process and look forward to implementation. TCM does such wonderful work, and I can’t wait to see us grow!
- Address: 21 Bell Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303
- Website: https://www.tcmatlanta.org
- Phone: 404.577.6651
- Email: LaurenP@tcmatlanta.org
- Instagram: Trinity Community Ministries
- Facebook: Friends of Trinity Community Ministries
- Twitter: @TCMAtlanta
Shantia Wilson, Janice Pauldo