Lost N Found's big new home for LGBT Atlanta's homeless youth received a boost on Tuesday – a $10,000 makeover from the place that gays love to shop, IKEA.
Lost N Found is one of 43 charities across the U.S. to receive the grants as part of the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge. Two other Atlanta-based charities – International Rescue Committee and Kilombo Academic & Cultural Institution – will receive an IKEA product donation as first and second runners up.
The IKEA makeover, which also includes donations of IKEA products, will help Lost N Found as it works to turn a massive three-story building in Midtown into an expansive shelter and workspace for the organization. In 2013, the non-profit inked a 20-year lease for $1 per year with Saint Mark United Methodist Church, the LGBT-inclusive church that owns the 7,000-square-foot structure that was built in 1904.
Rick Westbrook, LNF's executive director, said the IKEA makeover will help furnish the new space once it opens.
“We are extremely thankful for IKEA’s support of our mission,” Westbrook said Tuesday in a Facebook post. “I especially want to thank IKEA employee Anna Seiler for being our champion. This makeover is very much needed and with IKEA’s help, we will be able to create a warm and welcoming space for homeless LGBTQ youth.”
In early 2014, hundreds of volunteers helped Lost N Found gut and clean up the structure, which sits on a half-acre lot on Juniper between 4th and 5th streets. Since, the non-profit has done battle with the city over permits and worked to raise funds to pay for the renovation. Organizers initially pegged the cost of the project at about $400,000 but told the Georgia Voice earlier this month that it will take a $1 million capital campaign to complete the renovation and provide up to two years of operating funds for the facility.
Despite the outside distractions, Lost-N-Found Youth is moving forward with a $1 million capital campaign to be launched soon, preceded by a groundbreaking ceremony. And while small donations from the community are vital, they aren’t hesitating to go after bigger fish as well.
“We will be going full force. I’ll be hitting up Coke. Home Depot’s already on board. The Southern Company, Georgia Power, Delta—all the bigwigs,” Westbrook says. “It needs to be a house that’s built by the community. Nothing’s more important than that. The kids need to be able to see that this company, this person, this group donated money to build a house that they can be safe in. That speaks volumes to helping them along, to deal with the rejection that they had by their family and by their churches, and to see that it’s not just all gay people—it’s a lot of straight people too.”
Two upcoming fundraisers will boost the fundraising: The Thriving Children Gala with drag star Chad Michaels and the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus Panache Ensemble on April 29 and the 19th Annual East Point Possums Show on June 11.