Friends of Refugees opens new community house in Clarkston

Clarkston nonprofit Friends of Refugees announced that it converted a 1950s home into the nonprofit’s new “Hospitality House” to “help new Americans build a sense of community.”

Officials from Friends of Refugees said the project’s goal was to purchase the home and transform it into a venue for families to host baby showers, birthday and graduation parties, reading groups, playdates, and more.

A spokesperson said the project began in 2021 when many people fled in the wake of the US exit from Afghanistan, and an estimated 1,700 Afghans relocated to Atlanta within about six months.

To help welcome the Afghans into the community, Friends of Refugees officials said they sought to expand the nonprofit’s space and resources with the hospitality house. The project involved renovations, furniture, and décor that represent a wide variety of cultures for the house located in what Clarkston officials call the country’s most diverse square mile, officials said. Examples of cultural décor include floor seating and a tea station.

To ensure that the hospitality house could be operationally sustained, Friends of Refugees officials said they applied for a GoodUse matching grant from Southface Institute, an Atlanta-based sustainable building nonprofit.

Once the GoodUse grant was awarded, Southface provided technical assistance to improve the kitchen, bathrooms, floors, attic, and crawlspace with insulation, Energy Star doors and windows, and other amenities.

Friends of Refugees officials said once renovations were completed, air leakage in the hospitality house was reduced by 93 percent — the biggest improvement the GoodUse team had ever seen. A spokesperson said some funds were allocated toward other Friends of Refugees program spaces, such as transforming a shed in their Jolly Avenue Garden into an on-site office with a loft.

“We’re deeply grateful for the significant ways Southface has invested in making our program spaces more energy efficient and hospitable for the New Americans we serve. They helped us think bigger and come up with solutions that never would’ve occurred to us. Now, we can provide even better spaces for refugees to flourish in Clarkston,” said Friends of Refugees Executive Director Kendra Jeffreys.

For more information on the hospitality house and other Friends of Refugees services, visit: friendsofrefugees.com.

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