Who We Are
We are a grassroots, parent-led virtual community of special needs families. We have come together to find resources and support for each other and to bring the community around our special needs.
Southside Support Incorporated started in 2009 because a special needs mom needed a support village for herself and her family. Raissa Chandler, Southside Founder, moved her family in 2007 to Fayetteville, GA to be closer to her husband’s family. She has twins who were severely affected by Autism.
Through her training as a parent advocate through the Partners in Policymaking course, she used her community organizing skills to create levels of support for herself and the disability community at large.
In 2009, she formed collaborative partnerships between Parent to Parent of Georgia and ExceptionalOPS, by forming a Navigator Team Project as a committee of ExceptionalOPS. Between 2009 and 2010 the Navigator Team offered face-to-face peer support on a monthly basis, meeting for coffee at a local Chick-Fil-a restaurant in Fayette County. In 2010 and 2011, the group did small projects, like a day at the local Jump place and an egg hunt for students with disabilities.
In March 2011, the Navigator Team held a town hall meeting. The parents who attended the meeting made three requests that day – create a College Bound Conference for students with Asperger Syndrome, develop a plan and community contacts to support disability in crisis situations, and create an after-school program for students and adults with developmental disabilities. Given our limited resources, the Navigator Team focused on the College Bound Conference.
By 2011, the events and face-to-face coffee meetings garnered support from families outside of Fayette County. In an effort to encompass more families, the non-profit organization, Southside Support, was formed as its own entity in June 2011. In April 2013, the organization was granted 501c3 status from the IRS.
In 2012, Southside Support held its first Symposium, the College Bound Conference. That same year, Southside helped to create a Kid Fun Expo – a resource fair for summer activities for kids with all abilities. Southside also helped map community assets to understand healthcare and nutrition (food pantry) resources for all families.
In 2013, Southside continued with its face to face support and coffee meet-ups, and continued to build its fan base by creating a Southside Support for Special Needs Families Facebook group. The group grew to over 300 in its first year.
In 2014, Southside was very busy, offering motorcycle ride fundraiser “Ride for Autism”, educational session “Symposium”, and launching Safe Space at community events. Safe Space is currently a partitioned tent that is used as a haven for special needs family who require comforts of home at a community outing. The tent offers a quiet and discreet space for diaper changing or soothing an agitated child and a sensory play area for all children.
In 2015, Southside's founder, Raissa Chandler, was profiled in a local magazine, Fayette Woman, for her work in organizing Southside Support. The organization held it's first gala fundraiser, Southside Soiree on February 14.