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Chrissie Brown greets attendees during LIFT's rainy Earth Day event, which drew 150 people despite the inclement weather. (Contributed photo by Tina Pinkston)

A group of Ringgold residents are working to develop a nonprofit geared toward helping kids who are "at risk of becoming at risk."

Started in April, the organization, called LIFT, looks to foster an environment of self-worth for fifth- through 12th-graders who might feel isolated, aimless and hopeless and have the potential to go down the wrong path.

Movies at the Amp

On Saturday, Aug. 11, LIFT will be hosting a movie night with Catoosa County Parks and Recreation at the Northwest Georgia Amphitheatre at 6 p.m. The featured film is “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Admission is free. Visit lift-ringgold.org/events to learn more.

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Eli McNew and Zoe Brown play Giant Jenga before LIFT's last movie night at the Northwest Georgia Amphitheatre May 19. (Contributed photo by Tina Pinkston)

"LIFT is a beautiful term," said Tina Pinkston, chief financial officer for the fledgling nonprofit. "As they're involved with what LIFT is doing, we hope that that student will be lifted, encouraged, brought to a healthier, better place in their lives for future success."

The idea for LIFT came in February of this year, soon after a school shooting took the lives of 17 teachers and students in Parkland, Fla.

Prior to the tragedy, LIFT directors Chrissie Brown and Pinkston had been dreaming about developing an art center for the community, but after seeing the devastation one misguided individual could cause, the duo began to wonder what they could do to change a school shooter's direction before he or she ever became a school shooter.

"Our strategic philosophy is that we have a power within our reach that we can make a difference for those that just feel lost or lonely," Pinkston said. "We hope to create a sense of worth right where they are, without making them feel like they have to change to fit in or that they have to adjust something to be socially acceptable."

The ultimate goal is to create a youth center that would provide free programming throughout the week.

In addition to arts programs, which will be a large part of the center's offerings, organizers are hoping to incorporate educational programs that will teach the kids life skills they may not learn in the classroom, such as how to balance a checkbook and the importance of sleep. The center will also connect the students with professionals from a variety of fields to help them find their niche.

Through mentorship opportunities and community building, directors also hope the center will provide support for those who may be battling addiction or struggling with their sexuality.

For now, as LIFT works toward obtaining 501(c)(3) status, the organization is event-based. Its first event on Earth Day saw tremendous success, despite inclement weather conditions.

"We had about 150 people involved in the pouring rain!" Pinkston said of the April event, which included 15 different service and beautification projects around Ringgold, as well as learning stations for recycling, composting and other eco-friendly practices.

Since then, LIFT has hosted at least one event per month, using the activities to connect with kids who would benefit the most from the organization's services.

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Robert Black, Daniel Scoggins and Ben Peterson serve as project leaders during LIFT's rainy Earth Day event, which drew 150 people despite the inclement weather. (Contributed photo by Tina Pinkston)

"We're trying to figure out, is there a legitimate need for something like LIFT in the life of an average teenager? And when we find the kid that says 'yes' to a lot of those [survey] questions, then we want to be able to add them to our contact list and let them know what we have that's developing," Pinkston said.

So far, LIFT has connected with about 40 kids in the community and had a chance to partner with several community organizations, such as the Catoosa County Family Collaborative and Outdoor Ringgold.

"Personally, I think that's evidence for the power of the idea, because everywhere we've thrown out the idea, it's stuck," said Pinkston. "It's really been impressive to me how quickly it's coming together."

To learn more about LIFT, visit lift-ringgold.org.

Email Myron Madden at mmadden@timesfreepress.com.

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