Rollins assumes Friendship House leadership

Published 10:22 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Friendship House of Jesus is continuing to grow and expand its mission of service and outreach to the children and families of the community, and it will now do so under new leadership.

After 20 years, founder Jane Forsyth is stepping down as the CEO, and Melissa “Missy” Rollins has been named to succeed her.

Rollins has been associated with the Friendship House as a very involved volunteer for 15 years or more, greeting and helping the children with homework. Twice she has served as a board member and says she has prayed unceasingly for the ministry.

Email newsletter signup

“As I was raising my children, I prayed for these children,” she explains.

She describes herself as very excited and blessed to be able to serve in this capacity, adding that she has worked and traveled closely with Jane over the years and has experienced a gradual call to missions.

“As we have visited and prayed, God has made it clear an expansion was coming and Jane asked if I would step in,” Rollins said.

The expansion she refers to is the establishment of a women’s shelter.

“We have seen a need in the community we serve,” Rollins said. “Women and children are in places that are not healthy for them to be. People have been coming to us because they saw the name out front, and we have been ministering to them as best we could, but we didn’t have a place they could go.

Now it is in the makings. We have formed a steering committee and plan to be up and running the first part of 2012. We will be helping the homeless, hungry and hurting.”

Actually, helping the hungry will continue on Nov. 22, when 300 pounds of donated potatoes from a local farmer will be dispersed by Friendship House between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Rollins, a pharmacist by occupation, works part-time at Bainbridge Pharmacy. She has been married to Reese Rollins for 25 years and is the mother of three daughters: Mary Claire, age 23, who will graduate from UGA in December; Caroline, 19, currently a student at UGA and Mallie, 14, a student at Bainbridge Middle School.

In addition to the women’s shelter, some additional goals she sees on the drawing board for Friendship House are: a pre-school program called “Mommy and Me,” proposed by volunteer Nancy Grimsley; a women’s Bible study group; and volunteer Ryan Kirk wants to begin a non-profit music school where he would teach keyboard, drama and liturgical dance.

Forsyth, a former elementary school teacher, began sharing her Christian faith by conducting Bible school sessions informally in the housing projects in 1991. From that humble beginning, Friendship House has grown to become a non-profit, Christian-based after-school and summer program that reaches more than 200 children, ages 4-18, on a daily basis, providing them with a growing list of educational and social services in a safe, secure, supervised environment.

Thanks to generous donations from the community, it was able in 2006 to open a modern, multi-functional building to house its many activities under one roof. Friendship House now has a staff of two full-time and 10 part-time employees, plus a group of dedicated volunteers.

In a prepared statement, Forsyth said, “The Lord’s blessing on Friendship House, over the past 20 years, has given countless confirmations of His love for the children we serve and His desire for all of them to come into a personal relationship with Him through salvation by Jesus Christ. It started with spreading out a blanket and spreading the good news of the gospel in Rivers Apartments.

“With all that evidence of God’s guidance at Friendship House, I knew He was telling me to return to the place where I started … meeting people outside the walls of a building, right where they are, on the streets and at their homes.

“I will still be around here doing what I love: telling people about Jesus and asking them to walk with Him, along with teaching them the Bible. I have great confidence that Missy will take my position, and with the Lord’s help, make it her own, for His glory.

“She has a huge heart for people who are hurting and a desire to serve the Lord by reaching out to them. She, along with Josh Paske, administrative director, who has been at Friendship House for 12 years, and Jimmy Adamson, executive director, for nine years, will continue to extend God’s love. I am excited to see what the Lord will do next.”

Friendship House has been described by at least one who attends there as “a lighthouse of hope” — a shelter where children can come and be safe.

The staff of Friendship House is now ready to undertake a new mission, offering new hope to women and families.