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Gainesville family renovates space for learning at Good News at Noon

POSTED: January 29, 2012 1:30 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Austin Rowe, 11, adds some color to a painted tree on a wall inside a Good News at Noon building Tuesday afternoon as he joins his mom, Cora Lanning, in sprucing up the building into a school and learning center for homeless women and children.

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Although Cora Lanning walked purposefully across the painted sidewalk decorated with colorful promises of God’s love to the front entrance of Good News at Noon, she wasn’t completely sure why she was there.

All she had was a feeling in her gut and a tugging at her heart.

"I used to work at a store near here, so I was familiar with the shelter," said Lanning, a Gainesville resident.

"I wasn’t sure why, but I just knew that this was the place I was meant to volunteer."

She soon stumbled upon her calling — to spearhead efforts to renovate the inside of the multipurpose building at the homeless shelter, which is located at 979 Davis St. in Gainesville.

"Renovations in this building have been going on for a while, but there was a woman and her husband here who’d just finished renovating the babies’ room the same week that I came," Lanning said.

"They did a really good job, but somehow, I ended up taking on the project to do the rest of the rooms."

Since it was a modest building with about half a dozen rooms, Lanning thought she could knock out the project in a couple of visits.

That was two months ago.

"I thought I could have it done in a couple of weeks. What was I thinking," Lanning said with a laugh.

Lanning says it’s going to take a dedicated team of people to "spruce up" the former clinic’s exam rooms and turn them into classroom space for the shelter’s after-school program.

"We want to brighten things up. Get it organized," Lanning said.

There are holes to fill with spackle, scuffed walls to cover and clutter to remove.

Individual volunteers have helped here and there, but her most consistent team of helpers has been her children: 6-year-old Clay Rowe, 7-year-old Breanna Rowe and 11-year-old Austin Rowe.

"It’s good to get them involved with the community," Lanning said.

"I’m trying to get a group of mothers to come volunteer with their children."

Although they’ve painted a few rooms, the library is the only space that’s nearly complete. The walls have been painted a cheery shade of blue and will soon feature sprawling trees adorned with handprint leaves.

"When you paint with the rollers, you have to press hard or it will leave little white marks," Austin said.

"The next morning, your arms are really tired."

Although it’s hard work, the pint-sized helpers are enjoying it — even if it has been eating up most of their weekends.

"(Clay) gets upset if he doesn’t get to paint everyday," Lanning said.

"Hey," Clay complained from a far corner. "The paint is almost gone."

He’s right. The supplies are drying up almost as fast as the murals on the wall.

"Everything is being done by volunteers and through donations. Home Depot and Lowe’s have donated all that they can for this period, but we still have more rooms to paint," Lanning said.

"Hopefully, someone in the community can donate more. It would also be nice if someone could donate (and install) new linoleum on the floors."

Lanning says the center also needs school supplies for the students who come to the center after school.

"They come in here before they go over (to the main building) for dinner," Lanning said.

The kids find a seat wherever they can — either in the hodgepodge of worn chairs, or on the floor.

"We actually need some desks for the children to sit in to do their work," Lanning said.

"Right now, they have to lean against the wall to write because they don’t have desks. There are a few tables, but everything gets moved around constantly because they’re trying to make do with the limited supplies they have."

Community donations have kept Good News at Noon afloat for the last several decades. Gene Beckstein, the shelter’s founder, has told The Times that he doesn’t ask for anything. Volunteers, money and food just have a way of showing up.

Lanning hopes the same wave of support pushes the renovation process along.

"If my children were in the same situation, I would want someone to do this for them," Lanning said.

"They need a space that lets them focus on their studying — a happy place that feels more like home.

"Between homework and everything else, it seems like I barely have time for it all, but we do it all for the glory of God."



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