For over 20 years, The Sparrow’s Nest has been serving the Athens-Clarke community.
A nonprofit located on Prince Avenue that assists the underserved community and those that struggle under the poverty level, The Sparrow’s Nest is a Christian ministry that provides social services, legal assistance, food programs, shower and laundry services, a clothing pantry, work programs and several classes that allow participants to grow through counseling.
Executive director of The Sparrow’s Nest, Jamie Scott, is an Athens native who cares for his community. Inspired by his own personal struggles with poverty and addiction, Scott is now committed to ministering, educating and employing the underserved in Athens through The Sparrow’s Nest.
“We’re grateful for the University of Georgia … [and] the multitude of ways they help us,” said Scott.
The Keep Warm Project is a program to which Scott feels especially connected, having volunteered with the program before becoming executive director. During cold winter months, The Keep Warm Project provides participants with a hot meal, hygiene products, tents, cold-weather gear and fellowship with friends.
Multiple communities in the Athens area are brought together by this initiative. More than 100 UGA students participated in the UGA Terry College of Business’ annual B.A.G. (Bringing Athens Good) drive. The students and other volunteers packed over 200 backpacks to be distributed for The Keep Warm Project.
Scott is also particularly proud of the Clean Streetz Program, offered to homeless members within the community. This program provides employment opportunities for those who are displaced. Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful and the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department partner with The Sparrow’s Nest to clean the streets and reduce litter in Athens. Participants receive transportation, $10 per hour for their hard work, breakfast, lunch and all the materials that are required to keep Athens clean.
Don Nelson, an anthropology professor at UGA, serves on the board of The Sparrow’s Nest. During his time spent at The Sparrow’s Nest, Nelson has used his passion for teaching by assisting in the classes offered to participants.
“A few years ago, we started ‘Breaking the Cycle.’ Jamie [Scott] and others had a vision of not just giving people what they need, whether it’s food, shelter or things to keep warm, but really helping people break that cycle of the way they’re living,” said Nelson.
The “Breaking the Cycle” course is a 15-week program, and The Sparrow’s Nest has successfully graduated eight classes.
“I am so grateful and blessed [for the partnerships between The Sparrow’s Nest and the University of Georgia]. We didn’t always have faculty on the board or interns from UGA, some of them have [never] had this type of experience,” said Scott.
The impact of serving at The Sparrow’s Nest can have lifelong effects on UGA students. Brian Joseph joined the ministry as a master’s student at the UGA College of Public Health. Joseph began volunteering with the inner-city youth group that meets weekly for fellowship and to have a meal together. One day after volunteering, Joseph was approached by Scott, who offered him a part-time position while he completed his master’s program. Joseph found his passion in the ministry and now serves in a full-time position at The Sparrow’s Nest as director’s assistant.
“I was deeply impacted by the needs of the community and resonated with a lot of the youth coming through our doors,” said Joseph. “I originally began my degree to see how I could implement my management and policy skills overseas in mobile medical clinics but found that there was a huge need right in my own backyard.”
In addition to the board members and interns, many UGA classes volunteer their time with The Sparrow’s Nest. The School of Law has been sending law students to The Sparrow’s Nest through the Public Interest Practicum (PIP) course for over 10 years, and clinical assistant professor Elizabeth Grant has directed PIP since 2016. PIP gives students practical experience in interviewing and conducting legal research for low-income clients that lack access to legal services. PIP does not represent clients in court, but they provide advice and try to resolve legal issues.
“Conducting interviews at The Sparrow’s Nest gives students firsthand exposure to how the law intersects with poverty, housing status, health and other issues,” said Grant. “Students take with them the experience of seeing disparate access to legal remedies for the most vulnerable members of society, and ideally, these future lawyers will seek to increase access to justice, no matter what type of legal career they pursue.”
To learn about how you can support The Sparrow’s Nest, visit: https://www.sparrowsnestathens.org/.