For Mike and Pat Corkum, volunteering is a family affair. Both were familiar with Rainbow Village as Christ Episcopal Church congregation members. Their Norcross church was the original sponsor for the burgeoning nonprofit with a mission to break the cycles of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence in North Metro Atlanta. After retiring from a long-standing career in banking in 2004, Mike felt compelled to lend his services to Rainbow Village as a volunteer. With eyes firmly focused on future growth, the organization was in need of a financial administrator. What began as volunteer work quickly evolved to a part-time job and it wasn’t long before Mike became a full-time member of the staff. In the meantime, Pat began serving as a volunteer in the Family Services Center at Rainbow Village, primarily taking phone calls from applying families and listening to their stories. After 10 years as a staff member, Mike had to retire once again, but continues to serve as a volunteer wherever and whenever needed.
During their time at Rainbow Village in their individual roles, Mike and Pat have witnessed a lot of things that opened their eyes to what the homeless are facing and what they need to get back into the mainstream. The Corkums have been particularly impressed with Rainbow Village’s focus on young people in hopes of getting them out of the cycle of homelessness and on the path to futures filled with promise.
“Rainbow Village offers these kids an opportunity to stay in one place and make friends while their parent – many of whom are single moms – gets back into the workforce or furthers their career so they can eventually graduate the program and find a home of their own,” shared Mike. “It’s not easy to be a single parent managing the well-being of their children all on their own. Suddenly, they arrive in a community of support. There’s real value in what’s being done here.”
“It’s one thing to hear the stories and another to see results,” added Pat. “Rainbow Village is like a dream come true for them. Sometimes, when the families first arrive, the kids don’t want to go to school because they don’t want to leave their beautiful new home and have it disappear.”
Mike’s biggest source of pride during his time at Rainbow Village to date was when he worked with the finance chairman to advise Rainbow Village against taking part in a low rent government housing program that involved a long-term loan and required cumbersome reporting. He didn’t want the organization to tie itself to a mortgage that had to be paid back. It took well over a year of looking at other viable options, but they were able to get it quashed and the building of Rainbow Village’s campus was completed debt-free. For Pat, it isn’t just one moment in time that fills her with pride. It’s all tied to the hundreds of times she answered the phone to hear the stories of homeless families. Rainbow Village wasn’t always able to help them all, but she feels it was important to have them go away feeling that they had been heard and give them access to other resources, whenever possible.
“I feel honored to have seen the birth of this organization and watch it grow,” said Mike. “I helped with building program. The current campus was an enormous undertaking, but it was all worth it because you can see the impact it is making on peoples’ lives. It’s very special to be a part of a successful program that is contributing to peoples’ lives. The proverb ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ is in practice here every day. Rainbow Village is giving the families they serve the tools required to support themselves. When some of them arrive, they don’t even know how to count money. It requires hard work on the part of the families, too. Rainbow Village is not a shelter, it’s a program – a commitment.”
To this day, Pat and Mike make an effort to take part in as many of the events and get-togethers on campus as possible. In addition to their volunteer work and presence on campus for both the families and staff, the Corkums donate regularly to show their financial support for the nonprofit.
“We’re very thankful for what we have and are honored to give back – to pay it forward,” said Pat.
“Funding is necessary to make operations go,” added Mike. “This place needs money. It’s funded by donations – mostly from individuals, families, corporations, trusts and grants. From a financial perspective, you could really see the need. Of course, there are other ways to give. So many corporations come in and help out. People often come with suggestions of ways to enhance the program. At the same time, there’s got to be a limitation on how big you should get. Research showed that 30 units was the optimum number to provide. Bigger would not be as cohesive a community to effectively and efficiently run programs. Rather than grow in terms of size, I would much rather see Rainbow Village serve as a national model for other communities – to create a blueprint of this program for others to follow.”
When asked why they have given so much to Rainbow Village for so long, Mike answered, “There’s great satisfaction that comes from helping a good organization do a job that needs to be done and provide a service to a population that desperately needs it.”
Pat and Mike were both born in Nova Scotia Canada, moved to Atlanta in 1982, relocated to New York for a few years and moved back to Atlanta in 1989. They’ve lived here ever since. The couple is exceedingly proud of their two daughters and four grandchildren.