Investing in the life of someone else is never easy—especially if the someone else is a stranger.
But as Adam and Rebecca Stanley learned, it doesn’t take very long for the stranger to become practically another member of the family. That was certainly the case with the Stanleys and a young boy named Zack, whom they unknowingly began mentoring.
Rebecca had quit her job and was volunteering with an organization that works with kids in downtown Atlanta when the couple met two boys, one of whom was Zack. The Stanleys continued to get to know Zack and his family, but they were doing so while driving back and forth from their home in the suburbs to his Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Adair Park. “We felt like with each visit we were saying, ‘We love you and we care about you, but sorry, now we’re going home,’” Rebecca says. “We decided the best way to serve them and other families like them was by moving there ourselves. That way we could understand more of their needs and what they wanted and needed, not just what we thought they may want or need.”
That decision led not only to the purchase of a new home and a big move for the family—which by that time included daughter Jayci and son Caden on the way—but also to the creation of Blueprint 58. Blueprint 58 is a nonprofit organization focused on mentoring kids and families in Southwest Atlanta, specifically the Adair Park and Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The name was inspired by Isaiah 58:12, a special Bible verse for the Stanleys. “I had long been focused on verse 11—about how God will make you like a well-watered garden, but after we started working with these families, I read beyond to verse 12,” Rebecca says. “It says to pour yourself out on behalf of others who need it, and then you will be like the garden and a restorer of streets with dwellings. That really became our life verse. It’s our blueprint—it inspires all of the work we do.”
The work done through Blueprint 58 is centered around mentoring, and it’s focused more specifically on creating mutually transforming relationships between the mentor and the student in which the mentor can learn something too. “It’s not a one-way street that the mentor is coming in and saving the student,” Rebecca adds. “We feel there’s value in building relationships beyond culture and race that normally divide us. That was our founding principle.”
The Stanleys weren’t in the neighborhood long before they began getting numerous requests from families and students about partaking in the mentoring program, which starts with students at the fourth-grade level. To make the one-on-one mentoring happen, the Stanleys knew they must get more people to come alongside them to serve as mentors, but that was a task that took time and lots of effort. “It’s not easy to get people involved,” Rebecca says. “People can be afraid. They can often think they aren’t equipped to mentor and have nothing to offer. But we remind people that they are there to just build a relationship. And we want more people to learn and grow from building relationships with these amazing people we are meeting. They may live in under-resourced neighborhoods, but they have a lot to teach us about community and taking care of each other.”
As each mentor joins the program, the Stanleys request a minimum two-year commitment, hoping it goes well beyond that. They also require mentors to go through background checks and extensive training, which includes learning about cultural competency and trauma informed care. “It’s a commitment to be a mentor, and we have to make sure they are really dedicated and prepared,” Rebecca says. “Relationships are messy, and sticking with things can be hard even in the best of circumstances, let alone with a kid that might move a lot or have trouble keeping in touch because their phone gets shut off. The last thing we want to do is introduce one of our students to someone who is not going to follow through with them.”
In addition to mentoring, Blueprint 58 has added other programs to its offerings, which all have grown out of the Stanleys’ listening to their neighbors. Some of the young men in the community approached them about facilitating some sports, and the Stanleys responded with a sports program that includes basketball and football teams. To help the young mothers in the neighborhood, they started a support group for them. Adam even went to work for the community’s high school as a chemistry teacher after hearing from students that they needed more teachers.
Through all of its programs, Blueprint 58 serves approximately 200 kids per year, and the Stanleys are hoping for that to increase as they are in the process of renovating a neighborhood building that will serve as their new home. They need more space as a family of five with another baby on the way, and more space for mentors and students to spend time together and for students to just hang out. “We have a real community here that is a beautiful picture of the Kingdom,” Rebecca says. “It shows how relationships can cross boundaries and be reciprocal. Seeing people’s lives changed for the better because of these relationships has been the most rewarding thing for us. We get so much more than we give.”
To learn more, to get involved, or to donate, visit blueprint58.org.