The philosophy of Wayne Ellison, owner of Ellison Insurance Agency in Norcross, Georgia, is simple yet powerful: “To whom much is given, much is required.”
That’s why Ellison, a veteran of Rotary and other leadership efforts in the community, jumped at the chance to give more when he was introduced to Rainbow Village a couple of years ago.
The nonprofit, based in nearby Duluth, helps homeless families transition back into self-sustaining lives through a robust program that includes housing for up to two years, life-skills education, child and youth services, counseling, and more.
It’s more than a shelter; it’s a system designed to provide a long-term solution for families, all of whom must have custody of at least one minor child to participate.
About 90 percent of those served by Rainbow Village are African-American, a fact that played a key role in Ellison’s recruitment by a former board member. “He saw a lack of diversity on the board that was not reflective of the families in the program,” Ellison said. “And he thought that as a leader in the community already, I would be beneficial in advancing the organization’s mission as well.”
Ellison has done just that, according to Rainbow Village CEO Melanie Conner. “His enthusiasm is contagious, and often provides opportunities to engage others in ways we haven’t been able to do before,” she said. “Wayne and his wife, Khady, are supportive in every way—we are forever grateful.”
In addition to his service on the board, that support includes participation in several fundraising events each year, financial donations, and even bringing others into the fold—as backers of Rainbow Village and even as participants.
“I’ve introduced members of my church to the organization, one of my clients is now a board member, and I have referred a few people to apply for a spot in the program,” Ellison said. “One friend of mine was living in a car with her two children when she was accepted. Since then, she has gotten married and gained valuable skills; she and her husband are providing a stable environment for their children.”
That’s precisely the goal of Rainbow Village, Conner said—providing true life-changing opportunities for homeless single mothers and families with small children. With the number of homeless families in Gwinnett County continuing to grow (including more than 1,700 kids), it’s a mission that is more vital than ever.
A 2019 Safeco Make More Happen Award will help. The honor comes with a donation of up to $10,000 from Safeco to Rainbow Village on behalf of Ellison Insurance Agency. That amount can provide two years of financial education for more than 100 individuals, helping them learn how to increase savings, decrease debt, and build a brighter future.
The push toward a brighter future is what keeps Ellison going. “We can see the difference that Rainbow Village is making, the life changes and the skills these families are acquiring,” he said. “It’s inspiring to watch their progress—and incredibly rewarding to know that your effort played a part in it.”
It’s inspiring to watch their progress—and incredibly rewarding to know that your effort played a part in it.
Learn more about these Make More Happen award winners:
- Agency: Ellison Insurance Agency, ellisoninsuranceagency.com, Norcross, Georgia
- Nonprofit: Rainbow Village, rainbowvillage.org, Duluth, Georgia