When the first alumni housing for the Athens Acceptance Recovery Center (ARC) is open, it will have a student touch.

Sixteen College of Family and Consumer Science (FACS) students are helping renovate an apartment, which will house men who have graduated from the ARC’s recovery program.

For Lilia Gomez-Lanier, an assistant professor in textiles, merchandising and interiors, the service project allows students to put into practice their academic lessons, and benefits the Athens community.

“I am constantly looking for those projects [that give back to the community],” said Gomez-Lanier. “I think it’s so important that the students have a real client. They have talent, why not share it? Make someone’s life better.”

More than 200 unique service-learning classes, with 430 course sections, were taught during the 2017-18 academic year, reaching 6,369 individual undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Students in those classes provided more than 275,000 hours of community service to Athens and other communities, with an estimated value of $6.9 million.

“Service-learning provides an opportunity for students to experience learning outside the classroom in a way that can make a tangible impact in the community,” said Shannon Wilder, director of the Office of Service-Learning. “At the same time they are developing professional skills they take with them after graduation.”

During a recent visit to the apartment, the FACS students took detailed measurements, made initial drawings, and spoke with ARC staff about what the space needed to include. The class will continue to refine its designs through the summer, with finished drawings going to the ARC.

“I think it’s great that we’re doing [the project] in Athens and it’s for a good cause,” said Emily Flournoy, a sophomore majoring in furnishing and interiors. “We’re just now learning about construction and building codes and all this stuff that you need to think about, so I think this project is actually going to use those.”

The students bring fresh eyes to the project and can picture different layouts for the room, said Holly Barker, an ARC board member.

“Logistically, we’re going to end up with really great [digital] drawings and elevation drawings for this property that I don’t think are even in existence,” said Holly Barker, an ARC board member. “We can make this space really work for these guys and feel like a home—a safe, comfortable home environment.”

Barker is also hopeful that the project will serve as a window into a different world for the students.

“I think the bigger umbrella connection is just having a connection with the school,” she said. “There’s definitely still a stigma around people who have addictions and what exactly that means, and not everybody understands. I’m excited to kind of open people’s eyes and hearts a little bit to sort of better understand what this actually looks like and not be so fearful of it. But also celebrate these kids and give them a real-world scenario, a real-life helping somebody scenario.”

ARC needs alumni housing to not only give program graduates a safe place to stay, but also to open up existing beds for new people in recovery from drugs or alcohol.

Justin, a September ARC graduate, whose last name was withheld at the ARC’s request, will be one resident of the alumni house. He hopes it will serve as a bridge for him to take the next step in his recovery.

“Sometimes as addicts we don’t like change,” he said. “But I find it as a needed challenge to move forward and to branch out and to be able to spread my wings.”

Writer: Aaron Cox, aaron.cox@uga.edu, 706-542-3631

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery, smont@uga.edu, 706-542-3638

Contact: Lilia Gomez-Lanier, lglanier@uga.edu, 706-542-8777