How one couple harnessed the power of community to help mobile park kids succeed in school.
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Stand Together

Jim and Melinda Hollandsworth weren't planning to start a nonprofit. They just wanted to help a few kids with their homework.

When the Hollandsworths sponsored a local family for Christmas through their church in 2008, they thought it would just be a one-time thing. But when they saw that the large family's mobile home was only four miles from their Atlanta-area home, they realized they were essentially neighbors.


After their visit with the family, they wanted to come back, but not just because they enjoyed the family's company — they realized the family was living in suburban poverty, and wanted to see if there were more ways they could help them.

All photos via Path Project.

So, they randomly dropped by for a visit every so often. Eventually, the kids started sharing what was going on in their lives.

"The biggest thing that stuck out to us," says Melinda, "was that the younger kids could all tell you what they wanted to be when they grew up—a teacher, a doctor, whatever their big dream was. But when they talked about their older siblings, it was a different story. They would share of one who'd been deported, one who was in jail, and an older sister who was still high school age who had already had one, maybe two babies. So, there was a disconnect there."

The high school graduation rate of students in that neighborhood was a startling 33%.

During one of their visits, Maria, a 6th grader in the family asked Melinda if she could help her with her homework because her mom and dad didn't speak English. Since she had a background in education, Melinda looked over her school work and realized that she was already failing in most subjects. Maria was not on a path to succeed.

The Hollandsworths discovered that this was a big gap, not just for Maria, but for other kids in the family. To fill this need, they offered to come and tutor them once a week.

They started with one family, but word spread quickly. Before they knew it, the Hollandsworths had started a community center.

Jim and Melinda Hollandsworth.

Before long, more and more kids started showing up to get help with homework each week, and Jim and Melinda found themselves scrambling to keep up with the demand. They enlisted friends as volunteer tutors, and the kids kept coming.

After a few months, the mobile park property manager said he had a vacant mobile home that had been the site of a drug-related shooting. He asked the Hollandsworths if they wanted to use the home for their after-school programs.

That was the first time that Jim and Melinda thought that they could do more than just help a few kids with homework. But they also knew that if they took this opportunity, they had to be all in.

Early on, a 6th grader named Sophia had asked them, "When are you gonna leave?" These kids were used to people coming into their neighborhood, doing good things, and then never coming back. The Hollandsworths knew that in order to make a real difference, they needed to be there long term, to build relationships with these kids and their families.

So, they made the commitment and renovated the mobile home into a community center.

When a volunteer asked to work full-time and other mobile parks asked for them to launch programs, The Path Project was born.

Word began to spread not only among the families in this mobile park, but among mobile park owners as well. They saw how the Hollandsworths' after-school program was helping kids stay in school and on a healthy path, and they wanted the same for their communities.

First group of Path Project kids who graduated high school.

One volunteer said she wanted to make the tutoring work her full-time job. But Jim and Melinda, a pastor and a teacher, knew practically nothing about fundraising or starting a nonprofit. They had to learn as they went.

Today, The Path Project is a full-fledged 501c3 nonprofit with a staff of 24 people.

Jim left his job as a pastor in 2013 to focus full time on the project, which has expanded to eight mobile park neighborhoods in Georgia and Tennessee. The Path Project is privately funded through individuals, churches, and businesses, and they still utilize plenty of volunteers. They also partner directly with local schools and with organizations like Stand Together Foundation, whose goal is to help grassroots social entrepreneurs break the cycle of poverty. Stand Together Foundation is helping The Path Project with scaling their work in order to reach as many children and communities as possible with their relationship-based model.

The project has grown, but the foundation of its success remains the same: Getting to know your neighbors.

The Path Project is a prime example of what can happen when people get to know their neighbors and seek meaningful solutions to community problems together.

The project's recent stats speak to its success. According to The Path Project's 2018 annual report, 100% of the 4th and 5th graders in the project's first community are on track academically (using United Way metrics on grades, behavior, and attendance). Between 2011 and 2016, graduation rates jumped from 35% to 88%, and around 90% of students in that mobile park are currently on track to graduate—an improvement of 100% in the past four years.

Infographic courtesy of Path Project

The Hollandsworths will tell you that the road to The Path Project's success hasn't always been easy. Melinda says there were a lot of small, scary steps they had to take along the way. But the key was to show up, keep showing up, and focus on building relationships.

"I think it's important for us all to be good neighbors," says Jim. "And we do that by showing up, meeting new people, and asking questions. And if something comes out of that, then great. But at the very least, you have the opportunity to be a good neighbor. I think that's what we're all supposed to be."

Stand Together Foundation invests in solving the biggest problems facing our nation today in order to unleash the potential in every individual, regardless of their zip code. By supporting social entrepreneurs like Jim and Melinda who're close to social issues like poverty and academic challenges, new solutions are developed that are working. You can get involved and find a transformative org near you at Standtogetheragainstpoverty.org.

To find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together Foundation do the searching for you.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When we think of what a Tyrannosaurus looked like, we picture a gargantuan dinosaur with a huge mouth, formidable legs and tail, and inexplicably tiny arms. When we picture how it behaved, we might imagine it stomping and roaring onto a peaceful scene, single-handedly wreaking havoc and tearing the limbs off of anything it can find with its steak-knife-like teeth like a giant killing machine.

The image is probably fairly accurate, except for one thing—there's a good chance the T. rex wouldn't have been hunting alone.

New research from a fossil-filled quarry in Utah shows that Tyrannosaurs may have been social creatures who utilized complex group hunting strategies, much like wolves do. The research team who conducted the fossil study and made the discovery include scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colby College of Maine, and James Cook University in Australia.

The idea of social Tyrannosaurs isn't entirely new—Canadian paleontologist Philip Curie floated the hypothesis 20 years ago upon the discovery of a group of T. rex skeletons who appeared to have died together—but it has been widely debated in the paleontology world. Many scientists have doubted that their relatively small brains would be capable of such complex social behavior, and the idea was ridiculed by some as sensationalized paleontology PR.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.