Project:Free2Fly Forever Home ~ Grand Opening
It’s finally here! We are so excited to finally be moving into our Forever Home in Cleveland, Tennessee. We couldn’t have done it without the loyal support of our friends, family and community.
We are inviting everyone to come celebrate this next chapter with us on February 7. We will have our official ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce at 11 a.m. and will be open in our NEW storefront!
We will be extending our hours from 5 – 8 p.m. so you can come take a tour of our new space, shop your favorite Project Free 2 Fly products, and enjoy dessert & coffee.
Bring a friend, or TWO! We can’t wait to see you there.
Project Free2Fly has purchased and moved into a new building in downtown Cleveland.
The nonprofit organization, which helps women overcome negative circumstances through job training, has operated a workshop and retail storefront downtown since 2016. However, steady growth of its program for women and its retail sales demanded a new space.
“We have been growing every single year,” said Hailey Johnston, founder of Project Free2Fly. “We really needed this new building, and we are really excited to have it.”
Project Free2Fly partners with other nonprofit organizations to find women who need help to learn new job skills. Women in the program included those working to overcome drug addiction, homelessness, crisis pregnancies and more.
During the 18-month work program, women earn wages as they learn to make purses, wallets, jewelry and other accessories. Project Free2Fly sells these online and in the downtown shop. Proceeds go back into the business and support programs for the women it serves.
As each woman goes through the program, she is paired with a mentor and attends a series of workshops to learn positive life skills. Johnston said the organization also pays for professional counseling for any of the women who need it.
“We are the bridge between these women’s past situations and their bright futures,” Johnston said. “We partner with organizations, such as drug recovery programs, that help get them on the path to stability. We help them the rest of the way.”
Johnston said she has seen many of the women gain confidence as they learn how to make the fashion accessories, and many have gone on to reach positive new goals. Their accomplishments have included everything from regaining custody of children to earning college degrees.
Jessica Mizell, a graduate of the program who now works at Project Free2Fly as an intern, said she learned about the organization while she was working to overcome addiction.
Mizell explained she had struggled with drug addiction for years, and at her lowest point she became addicted to meth. In the midst of her addiction, she unexpectedly became pregnant.
After a situation which involved her losing custody of her daughter for two weeks, she decided to get help. She wound up at Women at the Well, an Athens-based residential recovery program for women.
“I found out about Project Free2Fly while I was there. It has been a great thing for me,” Mizell said. “I am now in my fourth semester at Cleveland State Community College. I’m studying to become a social worker.”
Johnston said Project Free2Fly has been gaining a positive reputation for helping women build the confidence they need to succeed. This in turn has led to more women being referred to the organization.
This has also proven beneficial for the business side of things, as customers have embraced the idea of buying handmade products they know will help the women who make them.
Both of these factors played into the organization’s need for a new space.
This past week, the organization moved from its former rental space at 266 Broad St. to its new building at 283 North Ocoee St.
Project Free2Fly bought and renovated the North Ocoee Street building with help from an ongoing fundraising campaign.
“We thought this was a really big opportunity for our organization,” Johnston said. “We really wanted to stay downtown, because we love the feel and want to be part of future revitalization. … We got the chance to restore a building that is over 100 years old, and it is ours.”
The restoration process was not an easy one, and the organization has quietly been overseeing renovations for over a year.
Project Free2Fly’s workshop, offices and store are now located on the ground floor of the North Ocoee Street building. The second floor consists of apartments, which have been and are expected to stay occupied.
Johnston expressed her thankfulness to contractor Tom Cate, who helped with a major renovation of the building’s ground floor. Projects included everything from redoing the building’s plumbing to refinishing antique wood floors.
“We are so excited,” Johnston said. “It is hard to believe we are finally in this space.”
The renovations are not 100% finished, as Johnston noted there is still some exterior work to be done. However, the organization is continuing to raise funds for the renovations.
Many involved with Project Free2Fly say they are eager to welcome the public into their new space. They had a “soft opening” on Wednesday and are planning their official grand opening.
The grand opening celebration is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. The event will feature opportunities to tour the new space, shop and enjoy light refreshments.