Partying in a Food Oasis! Our Carver Market Anniversary Celebration

The first year of Carver Neighborhood Market has been an incredible ride! We've served customers who are delighted to have access to fresh food and produce. We've worked with an upbeat team of young people gaining work experience in our store. And we've welcomed guests from all over who are interested and excited about this solution to the food desert issue that plagues so many communities. 

To celebrate a successful first year, we had no choice but to throw a big party! We invited all our friends and customers - not to mention Freddie the Falcon - out to the store for a sunny Saturday of fun. 

Partners like Freewheel Farm and Hunter Cattle Co. came out and shared their goods. 

Our South Atlanta Bike Shop staff showed off their smoothie bicycle. 

And the Skinny Chef offered an incredible cooking demonstration thanks to our partners at Georgia Food Oasis

We enjoyed a visit from the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders and Freddie the Falcon!

It was a wonderful day of community and celebration that truly exemplifies the ways Carver Market has impacted our neighborhood and Atlanta as a whole. Thank you so much to all who came out to the party and those of you who continue to support our work creating a food oasis. 

FCS 2015 Annual Report: The Stories Behind the Numbers

We love numbers! They are helpful for showing us and our donors where our money is going and the impact we are making. Our Annual Report is chock full of illuminating (and fun!) numbers. For example, our housing ministry Charis Community Housing renovated 13 houses in 2015! And our brand new Carver Neighborhood Market rang up 41,000 transactions while Community Grounds Cafe poured almost 5,000 cups of coffee. Our Pride for Parents Christmas store provided gifts to 450 families. 

These numbers bring us joy. We are delighted to see our programs being utilized in the neighborhood and to know our work is making a difference. But we also recognize these numbers are only the quantifiable data that can be measured. In reality, it is the relationships and the stories we encounter through our programs that give these numbers life. 

We celebrate the new resident who's moved onto the block thanks to Charis and is showing up at the neighborhood meetings ready to jump in and be a part of the community. One of those 41,000 transactions was a senior who needed vegetables for her soup and was so grateful she didn't have to ride the bus for hours just to prepare her dinner. Coffee was shared by neighborhood parents who met with school board members to discuss upcoming education reforms in our local schools. And a young girl woke up on Christmas morning to delight in the gifts her mom bought for her at Pride for Parents. 

These stories inspire our ongoing work. Great things are happening in South Atlanta, and we're honored to be a part. Thank you for your support as you help us continue to write beautiful stories in our community. 

Download our 2015 Annual Report below to check out all the behind-the-scenes from the year. 

 
 

5 Things to Know About The Lupton Center's Next Speaker

by Shawn Duncan

In her book My Name is Child of God . . . Not “Those People”, Julia Dinsmore tells a personal story of poverty from childhood to single motherhood to her middle-years. She uses story, poetry, and song with a desire to give others' an inside look from the perspective of one experiencing poverty. “I’m not a pity party with a microphone," says Julia. "My talks and my messages are about the resilience, brilliance, fortitude of my people.” 

On Tuesday, May 17th the Lupton Center will host the Minnesota educator and activist for an amazing event called "My Name is Not Those People" at 7pm at North Ave Presbyterian. We'd love to have you join us and hear from this inspirational speaker. 

Want to know more about Julia Dinsmore? Here are 5 fun facts about this amazing woman!

#1 - She's got a unique twist on Lent!

Dinsmore says, "I have given up poverty for Lent several years in a row...to no avail."  

#2 - She's a world famous poet.

"The first thing I ever wrote that was longer than a song is a poem that spread around

the entire planet." Check out a reading of that poem by Danny Glover:

#3 - Her book isn't like other books. 

Dinsmore grew up in an oral culture and was largely illiterate in print culture until she taught herself how to write in the midst of writing her book in 2007.

#4 - She was born to dance. 

She promises no one taught her Irish rhythms or showed her Irish dance steps. "Still," Dinsmore says, "somehow I was born knowing them."

#5 - She calls herself Catholic-ish.

"Catholic nuns are a good part responsible for fostering my deep desire to help create a more just world," she says. "In fact, I wanted to be a nun. Instead, I ended up a single mother with three sons!"

Come hear from Julia Dinsmore on Tuesday, May 17th at 7pm at North Ave Presbyterian in Atlanta. The Lupton Center is excited to host this event. You can pick up your tickets here. We can't wait to learn more from Julia Dinsmore!  

Help Our Youth Have A Fantastic Summer!

by Bob Lupton

Dear Friends,

Bike thefts are down in South Atlanta. Way down. That’s because nearly every kid now has a bike. Before our South Atlanta Bike Shop opened, bike thefts used to be an epidemic. The police can attest to that. But all that has changed.

Any day after school or on the weekends, you can drop by the Bike Shop (located in our Gateway building) and see dozens of kids of all ages repairing, restoring, and servicing bicycles. The younger ones will be learning basics: how to patch tires and adjust brakes. The more advanced will be replacing wheel bearings, changing sprockets, and balancing spoke wheels. Each is accumulating credits that will earn them a bike of their choosing and the privilege of using all the Bike Shop tools and parts to maintain it. The more skilled (our budding entrepreneurs) even perform services and repairs for walk-in customers.

You will also see uniformed police volunteering at the Bike Shop. A number of them see this as a great opportunity to work on their own bikes, pass along some of their skills, and build good relationships with neighborhood youth (which also cuts down on bike theft). It’s a very friendly way to do community policing.

Such school-year activities are great. But summertime is best time of all for South Atlanta kids. That’s when summer camp begins with an array of fun and character- building activities. And for those who love biking, it is time for their physical and mental endurance to be put to the test. They will head out on tours – beginner day-rides as well as challenging multi-day trips for the older ones – that will strengthen both body and spirit.

Will you join us again this year as a sponsor for one or more of our kids? Parents will contribute, kids will work, in-kind contributions will be secured, and volunteers will give generously of their time. Your $100 sponsorship will make up the difference and ensure a summer filled with adventure and encouragement for a child who needs our support.

So grateful for your partnership in service, 

When Business Competition Moves Into the Neighborhood

by Jeff Delp

Living in a community without retail businesses can be a challenge. We’ve talked many times about the hardship of a “food desert,” where getting healthy, affordable food is difficult. But what about when you need a last minute greeting card? Yep. That's a thirty minute trip by car or a couple hours by bus. Kid’s sick and you need medicine at night? The same. Need a bag of ice, cooking utensil, or something else for a meal? Thirty minutes or more.

For a neighborhood to thrive, it needs a variety of retail options. At FCS, we bring small business and partners to the neighborhood that help to provide jobs, spur the local economy toward growth, and increase access to resources for all our neighbors.

Our latest endeavor in South Atlanta was launching Carver Neighborhood Market last year to create a food oasis. Shortly after the grocery opened, we learned Family Dollar would also be opening a store in the Lakewood Heights business district - just 1 mile south of us. They don't sell produce or many of the other groceries we do, but we were a little nervous about having competition on our comparable items.

What we’ve discovered in the months since we've opened is that our sales and traffic have actually increased compared to pre-Family Dollar days. Why is this the case? We think it’s because consumers like options. The easier they can get what they need in the neighborhood, the more likely they are to stay and shop in the neighborhood. We’re happy our sales have increased, and we’re also glad our neighbors now have another option for life’s miscellaneous stuff - like socks, markers, or tongs - that was difficult to access prior to Family Dollar’s arrival.

Sometimes dollar stores are seen as bad retail for neighborhoods like ours. “They don't attract the right kind of businesses,” the story often goes. But from my years of living in South Atlanta, we’ll take what we can get at this point. I’m thankful for the options Family Dollar has provided for our community.

If I lived somewhere else, I might not choose a dollar store, but I certainly will here. Of course, I’m still going to promote shopping at Carver Market on our similar items, but I’m glad to see other businesses sprouting up in South Atlanta. We want our neighbors to have access and choices that are local and accessible. It’s a sign of economic development in a community that hasn’t seen it in a long time.

Photo credit: Traveller858

Why We Must Avoid Policy Fixation

by Shawn Duncan

I have the privilege of talking with many wonderful, servant-hearted leaders who hope to reimagine charity. When these practitioners are made aware of the unintended negative effects of charity, there are a number of natural reactions to this realization that can actually be counterproductive. I have written on several in the past, including compassion paralysis, practitioner’s guilt, and the charity police.

 

 

Another such reaction is what I call “policy fixation.”

 

Policy fixation bogs down practitioners in the details of intake forms, client interview questions, standards that qualify families for service, regulations on distribution of resources, policies for preventing abuses, and more. These things matter, and they matter a lot. As your organization moves toward more responsible models of charity, the procedures for doing what you do will certainly be impacted in a radical way.

 

The problem, though, is that too many folks start with policies and procedures before dealing with the bigger picture. If we aren’t addressing the bigger picture - if we are just rearranging and tweaking the existing components - we are still falling into the toxic charity mindset. That approach says it is up to us to create the right program that meets their needs.

 

In every charity there are four basic building blocks: the problem (what is wrong), the solution (what will fix it), the procedure (how we implement the fix), and the metrics (how we measure the success of the fix). When practitioners learn about toxicity in charity, policy fixation causes them to jump in and deal first with the procedure part.

 

Those that will make lasting and transformative changes, however, will change the paradigm first and let the policies follow suit.

 

The paradigm can only change when we ask hard questions about the first two building blocks: the problem and the solution. We need to deal with whether or not we have an accurate and holistic understanding of what is really going on. We also need to deal with whether or not we have an approach to addressing the issue that actual solves something, that actually impacts real and lasting transformation. Finally, and most importantly, we have to deal with the fact that those who are meant to benefit from these service must be invited into these foundational conversations.

 

This starting place will prove to be much more fruitful and will help us to establish nontoxic charities. Then - and only then - we can approach our policies with fresh eyes and a reestablished paradigm.

Right-Size Retail and a Food Oasis

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Launching Carver Neighborhood Market has been a strategic experiment in finding what will work best for our community. We've learned from similar groceries in other markets, and we've adjusted our product mix along the way to cater to our customers. We offer weekly promotions to find that sweet spot where Carver Neighborhood Market can increase our sales. 

This month, we were honored to be featured on Food Tank in an article written by our friend and partner John Bare. Bare is vice president of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and directs grant making to increase access to healthy, affordable food for Georgia families. 

The article, "Addressing a Food Oasis with Right-Size Retail," acknowledges how Atlanta neighborhoods are often characterized by low density and low incomes. Where "big box" grocers may not be able to survive, Bare coins a term - "right-size retail" - to describe stores like Carver Market that can meet the need in these communities. 

This piece is a huge encouragement to us in our work at Carver Market. And we are seeing how our small store has been able to make a big impact. Please click here to read the full post on Food Tank.

A Creative Way To Promote More Fruits & Veggies

by Jeff Delp

When we opened the Carver Market one year ago, we hoped to bring quality fruits and vegetables into our community. No other retail store was offering fresh produce in our area. But we weren’t sure how we would help those unaccustomed to having access to healthy foods to take a risk and try something new.

We knew a large percentage of our shoppers would be buying their food with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Benefits. For a family shopping with a limited income, it can be a difficult choice to purchase something that may or may not be good. Or that a child may or may not like. The budget for experimentation is not high.

Not surprisingly, in the first eight months of our operation, the average transaction of a customer buying with SNAP included only 7% produce. This number compared to 15% for our cash/credit customers. In other words, customers paying with cash or credit bought twice as much produce as our EBT customers. We wanted to change that dynamic.

Many farmer’s markets near us offer 2 for 1 SNAP on produce. The program was designed to encourage lower income residents to visit farmer’s markets and encourage them to try new produce. While the premise was strong, a variety of reasons contribute to SNAP customers not attending or buying from a farmer’s market. So the question has been asked: How do we get this 2 for 1 program into a traditional retail outlet?

We found a partner in Georgia Food Oasis, who offered to sponsor 2 for 1 SNAP at Carver Market, and we gladly accepted. In February, we began offering 2 or 1 produce on Thursdays. We brought attention to the program by hosting celebrity Chef G. Garvin. He promoted the effort and offered free samples to customers using produce available in the store.

The results have been nothing short of phenomenal. In February and March, the average transaction in our store included 20% produce – regardless of payment method! Not only did this 2 for 1 promotion narrow the gap between SNAP and non-SNAP customers, but it boosted overall produce sales for everyone. A true win-win for everyone involved.

We are so glad to see neighbors buying more fruits and veggies and trying new foods at home. Our hope has been to encourage positive choices in the community by making healthy food available and affordable. We’re grateful to Georgia Food Oasis for helping us reach this dream.

Neighborhood Beauty: Interview with Artist Olive47

Public art can bring vibrancy and highlight beauty in a neighborhood. Research suggests it can also help residents feel attachment to the community. In our target neighborhood of Historic South Atlanta, Artist Olive47 has been bringing life and color to houses, fences, and more on our streets.

We’re delighted that she was willing to be interviewed for our blog and share a little bit about her passion, her art, and her experiences in South Atlanta. Meet Olive.

Q: How did you get involved in art?

Olive: I’ve been making art my whole life. Ever since I could use my opposable thumbs effectively! There was never a choice to get involved. It choose me.

Unlike today, where everyone is encouraged to do everything regardless of whether they have any real natural talent, when I was growing up, only a few of us little weirdos were the ones in the corner constantly drawing. While pursuing my undergrad degree in painting, I started getting commissions to paint murals in peoples’ houses. Lots of baroque cupids in those days.

Meanwhile, I had started doodling on walls here and there and became very involved in the (illegal) street art movement in the mid/late 90s out of reaction to the gallery scene in Los Angeles where I was living. Around this time, I started traveling a lot and began to write and photograph for a couple of graffiti/street art publications.

Q: Why do you think community art is important?

Olive: I don’t necessarily see myself as a community artist in that I am not one of those artists who brings out the community to help me paint or asks for their input in my work.

My work is about very specific themes that reoccur in art and art history throughout the past few centuries and a language of symbols that have evolved from my studies. I see what I do (teaching the themes in my work) as a very long, drawn out job to do that I’ve been carrying out for the past 20 something years and will continue until I die.

Art in general is important because it can act as a unifier among people, regardless of educational/financial background. By the sheer nature of a lot of murals being outside, anyone is given the chance to experience the work. It isn’t kept inside for a select group to enjoy. And people who would never think to step inside a gallery can share an experience.

Q: What inspires your murals?

Olive: I don’t like to be too specific about the meanings of the symbology of my work, because I believe that once it leaves my hand, each viewer then finds their own meaning in a piece.

Suffice to say, I think it’s obvious I am addressing the ideas of the order in nature, the tree of life/life cycle,  the importance of animals, among other ideas - basic things that contribute to the inner structure of our existence.

Q: How has your experience been in South Atlanta?

Olive: I’ve really enjoyed working on the projects I’ve been doing in South Atlanta and Lakewood and getting to know some of the residents. I have one more mural to do down here before I move back to Los Angeles at the end of April, so it will be a bit of a bittersweet experience. But I’m happy to leave one last piece, and I will be back to visit!

Olive’s impact is can surely be seen in the neighborhood. The collage above shows several examples of her art in the community. It’s a joy to see these installments in South Atlanta, and it’s fun to glimpse a behind-the-scenes peek at Olive’s artistic experience.

 

A Different Way Of Thinking

by Jim Wehner

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“We have the solution to poverty!” This was the first thing out of the presenter’s mouth. I was participating in a conversation with a developer who is impacting their city. I loved their program. They were thinking holistically about jobs, economic impact, and investment. There is a lot that we at FCS could learn from them.

But I struggled with this first statement of our conversation. There were promotional videos, proving their work. Solid and sincere testimonies from those served and benefiting from their programs. Before and after pictures that revealed great progress. And data that backed up their effectiveness. Yet, there was something that didn’t fit. Something that left me uncomfortable. After the meeting, I heard the same discomfort from my FCS team members that were present.

To be honest, I was hoping for an clear partnership. Our initial phone conversations had been easy. The developer and FCS use very similar language to describe the types of help that struggling neighborhoods require. We found sincere alignment on our missions and core values.

It took me weeks of thinking through this conversation to realize that we had very different ideas of the problem that we were trying to solve.

We both use the term poverty, but our solutions are very different.

How We Define Poverty

At FCS, we think poverty is not simply an expression of a person's wealth. Poverty is an expression of relational need that everyone shares regardless of personal affluence. This is why neighboring, empowerment, and dignity are so important.

If our goal is to solve an economic equation, the solution to poverty is pretty simple. It is simply a matter of the right economic equation. And our developer friends may have solved it.

But if the solution has to do with how we, as human beings, relate with one another, then our work is different. Reciprocal, dignified exchange becomes important. Meaningful solutions that engage diverse voices become important. Give and Take. Discernment. Trust. I am simply skeptical of solutions that proclaim a quick fix. You do not build these types of solutions overnight.

Don’t get me wrong. FCS clearly believes alleviating poverty has economic components that require financial solutions. Dignified exchange often requires us to evaluate resources in an economic manner. But if our goal is to create a community of economically independent, middle-class individuals that do not need each other, we miss the point. I would go as far as to say I don’t think this is God’s vision for humanity. He did not intend for you and me to stand alone in our independence earned by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. That is not how His Kingdom works.

Living Into A New Way Of Thinking

A good friend of mine recently shared with me these words from Richard Rohr, "One of the most transformative experiences is entering into some form of lifestyle solidarity with the powerless, by moving outside of your own success system, whatever it is. Move around in the world of others who are not enamored with your world. This is a good way to feel powerless. We don't think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. Lifestyle choices and changes finally convert people. I am not aware that merely believing a doctrine or dogma has ever converted anybody. "

I believe that God’s heart is aimed in a special way toward the poor. We do not have to search too deeply into the Scriptures to come up against this truth. In fact, I have been stunned over and over at the faith of those who have little in the way of worldly means. My faith has been made stronger by my interactions with those on the margins of society. They know how to trust God in a way that my well-resourced life has hidden from me. In seeking to help others, God has revealed a poverty within me that I was unaware existed. I was able to see and diagnose brokenness in the lives of others, but utterly incapable of diagnosing my own need.

I wish I could say I were more easily excited when someone says they have found the solution to poverty. I would love for FCS to be able to make this claim. But I can’t.

I think FCS would claim to be in process and constantly learning. More and more, I prefer to learn from those seeking answers through reciprocal relationships that encourage and expect dignified exchange as a means to building community.

Homeowner Profile: Bridges Family

Charis Community Housing has been creating mixed-income housing opportunities for almost 30 years. We believe a home is essential to a family’s health and success. Here on the blog, we've been featuring Charis homeowners so you can meet some of our neighbors in South Atlanta. For past profiles, check out James and Tanisha. Today, meet the Bridges family.

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

We are the Bridges family! Kore, Raelynn and our two boys Jai and Dash

When did you purchase your home in South Atlanta?

We purchased our home in August 2011 and are super excited that It will be 5 years for us very soon! We really liked the house. We loved the layout of the house, and we could afford to buy the house. It was and still is a good purchase.

What is your favorite thing about living in South Atlanta?

There are so many things we LOVE about living in South Atlanta! We most enjoy the location of South Atlanta to other cities and counties. We also love the sense of community in South Atlanta, including Civic League meetings and our awesome annual community events, like Treat Street and our Kickball Tournament!!

Lastly, we love being a part of the change happening in South Atlanta. The neighborhood growth, including great neighbors, new businesses, and home development are all contributing to our community growth!

How do you hope to see the community change in the next ten years?

We would like for South Atlanta to be one of the best and safest neighborhoods in Atlanta! We believe we have resources in our community helping us become more aligned and flourishing!

What has home ownership meant to you?

Home ownership has meant happiness and family for us. We're thankful to Charis for our lovely home and making the South Atlanta neighborhood great! 

We're so excited to see so many great, new neighbors moving into South Atlanta! Interested in joining the community? Check out our current houses for sale!

Work or Ministry?

by Bob Lupton

He is a real estate developer – not a minister.  He does his deals, takes his risks, and when they pay off, he gives a generous portion of the proceeds to his church and the other worthy causes he believes in. His business produces the income that supports his family, buys his home, educates his children, pays for vacations, provides for retirement, and yes, funds important ministries.

He enjoys his work – the rush of risk-taking, the challenge of problem solving, the satisfaction of a successful deal. He is wired for it. And over time, he has created enough margin in his schedule to allow ample room for personal involvements in his church and on the boards of some significant non-profits. His work enables him to do ministry.

“Do you consider your work ministry?” I asked him. We were having a discussion about the divide between the secular and the sacred. He loved his work, he said. But did he see it as ministry?

No. Not really. Ministry to him is pro bono involvement, like when he uses his connections and business savvy to help an inner-city non-profit structure a housing deal. Or serves on the elder board of his church. But his real estate career he views as his secular job. In his mind, there is a difference between his work and ministry.

But is there really a clear divide between the secular and the sacred?

Perhaps my friend was not looking deeply enough into the redemptive value of his real estate deals? Is there something sacred about building a skyscraper that he had missed?

Admittedly, contentious negotiations with lenders and investors – each posturing for economic advantage – did not seem like a very spiritual exercise. Nor did the political maneuvering to secure zoning. Nor the “value engineering” trade-offs with architects and general contractors. Such necessary shrewdness did not feel particularly spiritual to him. Rather, this treacherous world of real estate development often felt more like dealing with the devil than advancing God’s Kingdom.

Even so, when a deal-maker has successfully navigated a host of ethical challenges while skillfully negotiating a win-win-win agreement, has he not demonstrated what Christ affirmed as being "wise as serpents and harmless as doves?"

When the lawyers have drafted the documents and the deal is finally signed, then the real benefits begin to flow – hundreds of working people begin to earn paychecks. Architects and engineers crank out their blueprints, heavy equipment operators start moving dirt, concrete workers start pouring and finishing cement, steel workers erect structures, electricians run wire, plumbers install pipe, interior designers create beauty, marketing professionals sign leases, and on and on it goes.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ready workers, from truck drivers to boots-in-the-mud laborers to hard-hat supervisors to suit-and-tie executives, all benefit from this “secular” real estate deal. And when the construction is finally completed – when the glass is gleaming, the picture-perfect landscape adorns the streetscape, the leased-up offices are abuzz with activity – the project takes its productive place in the economic life of the city. “Secular?” Or is this the very sort of activity from which Shalom emerges?

Shalom. Peace, harmony, prosperity. Is this not the Creator’s desire – design – for humanity? Shalom can flow most freely when the wellspring of a healthy economy spreads its life-giving energy out upon society.

And business, for-profit business (the type my real estate developer friend is engaged in), is the very kind of activity that stimulates the economy, creates jobs, and is the wealth-creating source that funds education, insures safe streets, provides health care, supports churches and social services, and enables a host of other societal benefits to thrive. Shalom cannot fully flourish without honorable business. My friend’s “secular” occupation has spiritual significance after all. It is indeed ministry on a grand scale.       

Shattering the Plexiglass

by Sarah Quezada

Drive thrus are an interesting phenomenon. I can speak to my mother-in-law in Guatemala with crystal clarity for free, but it’s virtually impossible to order a 2-piece chicken meal correctly on the first try. Perhaps Y2K only impacted drive thru intercoms, and they are destined to remain in the technology landscape of the mid-80’s.

Having lived in city neighborhoods for more than a decade, I’ve discovered that garbled conversations across the length of the building are often just the first disconnection in the urban customer experience.

One fast food chain would lead me from a fuzzy, walky-talky exchange to a giant plexiglass box. I opened the box, deposited my credit card into the designated slot, and closed the box door. Then, the employee would retract it, remove my card, and fill the box with my order, card, and receipt before sliding it back out to me to open. We really didn’t speak. We certainly didn’t touch. Based on my zip code, this process was deemed the best way to interact with me and my neighbors.

I have seen some variation of these “safety measures” in many different establishments. Convenience store counters built behind bulletproof glass. Double sided doors that open in succession only to exchange money. Turnstiles blocking entrances and exits to grocery stores.

I have lived in Historic South Atlanta, a small community near downtown, for seven years. Recently, I was checking out at Carver Neighborhood Market while the clerk asked me about my weekend plans. In that moment, “the box” resurfaced in my memory. I realized that I was interacting without plexiglass. And it was so nice.

Trust. Community. Relationship. Shalom. It’s hard to build up or promote any of these things when wrapped in a plexiglass cocoon. I understand the temptation many business leaders feel to lead with fear. But it is a choice that leads us all to nowhere.

Talking to the clerk made me proud of the work happening in our neighborhood all over again. Carver Market has been touted as an initiative to provide healthy food in our community, as a solution to food deserts in urban neighborhoods. But this conversation highlighted another benefit I’ve enjoyed there and at Community Grounds.

I am treated like a customer. Just a regular ‘ole customer. One whose business the employees desire and who they treat with general respect and humanity.

Food deserts are a real challenge, but maybe our zip codes can sometimes be “Trust Deserts” as well. I’m thankful for businesses that offer dignity and conversation face-to-face without the barriers of distortion, distance, and fear.

Sarah Quezada is a South Atlanta resident and part of our founding member's crew at Carver Neighborhood Market. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog, A Life with Subtitles.

Turner Field: More Than One Goodbye

by Jeff Delp

A few years ago, news broke about the Braves leaving their downtown stadium, which is less than a mile from our Historic South Atlanta neighborhood.

I heard the news while sitting in Community Grounds and was shocked and surprised like many of you were. I’ve since been asked many times what the Braves leaving means for our neighborhood.

My first reaction was an involuntary reaction from a native Philadelphian and Phillies fan: Good riddance! But my second thoughts were those of a parent of young kids: Will the March Fair stay? Carnival rides are set up across from Turner Field each spring, and my kids love it!

Truthfully, I still don’t know how I feel about the Braves leaving. I will miss them because I like going to games. But traffic does get annoying when those of us nearby are just trying to live our lives.

I doubt I will go to many games in Cobb County because I never have to drive to sporting events any more. South Atlanta’s proximity to Turner Field, Philips Arena, The Georgia Dome, and the new Mercedes Benz Stadium allows me to get to events easily and without a car. (And as a new season ticket holder to Atlanta United FC, I look forward to riding my bike, the bus, or the train to many soccer games in 2017!)

There is one thing I will not miss when the Braves leave: the parking lots. 

Parking lots – both official and unofficial ones – have been a drag on our surrounding communities for too long, stifling development and activity in the neighborhood. While they make sense from a game day perspective (for drivers), these parking lots sit empty the overwhelming majority of the time, killing any semblance of urban life and vitality.

If you are walking or biking (like many of our neighbors do), you can literally go a mile without passing a house, business, park, or anything that would interest you. All that exists is parking or the interstate.

This has been my biggest problem with Turner Field. Having the stadium in the neighborhood is kind of quaint – think Chicago Cubs or Boston Red Sox. But the acres upon acres of parking dedicated to 3 hours a day for 81 days a year has drained life.

We see the impact at Carver Market and Community Grounds. The amount of land dedicated to the Interstate Highway and parking lots around us limits the number of customers in proximity to the store. This lack of density is one of the reasons many chain grocery stores have by-passed our neighborhood.

What will go in the place of the parking lots? Will it be a grocery store like residents want? (Hey, we have one in South Atlanta!) Will it be Georgia State? Sure sounds like it.

Whatever comes our way, my hope is it will consider those living closest to it. For that has been the problem with Turner Field for too long. It is an island separated not by a fence, but by parking lots and highways.

So I say Good riddance, parking lots! And I hope for something we as neighbors can enjoy year-round.

Image credit: Famous Amos

When Problems and Solutions Are Complicated

by Katie Delp

“We’re supposed to bring bottled water in to school. The class that brings the most wins a prize!” my eight-year old son declares as pulls a flyer from his backpack and waves it in front of me. “People in Flint, Michigan have bad water, and we have to send them water,” he continues.

I scan the flyer, aware of my rising cynicism regarding this school project. What a wasteful, ineffective use of donations. Do people in Flint even want bottled water? They need to take showers and wash dishes. Water bottles are in no way a solution to this city's crisis. This is toxic charity at its best. I stop myself from verbalizing these thoughts in front of my son, and instead mumble something about getting some bottled water later.

Later, he asks me, “What is really happening in Flint? Why is their water so bad?”

I try to explain the effects lead has on the development of children and why those in power have been slow to respond appropriately to this crisis. I sum up my monologue with a deflated “it’s complicated.”

My son’s response is simply, “We should get some water bottles tomorrow.”

Here at FCS, we are considered leaders in the movement towards responsible charity. We write about these topics and train churches to look deeper into their charity models. We encourage them to move to more dignifying and effective models. As an organization, we constantly limit our one-way giving, and we encourage others to do the same.

I don’t explain all of this to my son. His young heart has compassion for other children who need water. Sending them clean water is the logical response. I want to raise caring and generous kids, which sometimes means letting them give freely without the burden of the effectiveness of their gift.

And while I may put  aside my charity principles so my child can practice compassion in an immediate, tangible way, I am still conflicted. How can we help our neighbors in Flint in meaningful, effective ways? If everyone is giving without any accountability to finding solutions, is anything really being done? How can we adults seek answers that take broader circumstances and real need into account?

I know that part of the journey towards smart charity is asking questions and considering new perspectives.

I also know that tomorrow morning, I’ll be helping my son lug a case of bottled water into his school.

It’s complicated.

Image credit: Steven Depolo

Breaking New Ground: How FCS’ History will Shape the Future

by Shawn Duncan

The last eight months have been a flurry of activity as the FCS leadership and a special task force have been laboring to bring life to this new part of FCS’ work. We are absolutely thrilled to announce the launch of The Lupton Center!

The Lupton Center will offer dynamic training equipping practitioners to reimagine charity, restore communities, and envision innovative solutions to poverty. By distilling FCS’ history, message, and competencies into transformative educational resources, The Lupton Center will prepare individuals, churches, and organizations for healthy community development and responsible charity.

We have already developed two training events, the Reimagining Charity Seminar and the Changing the Charity Paradigm WorkshopWe have led these events in multiple sites around Atlanta and in other states as well. We have many more scheduled nationwide in 2016. Also, The Lupton Center is currently developing an online, video-based curriculum that will reach thousands more with our proven message.

We ask for your fervent prayers and for your generous financial support as we step into this new, exciting territory. When you give to The Lupton Center, you are creating resources that will do two exciting things: One, they will transform charity. And two, they will create revenue to support the neighborhood work of FCS. With your support The Lupton Center can multiply the FCS model and become a nationally recognized resource for reimagining charity and restoring communities.

Upcoming Lupton Center Trainings

March 7-8 - Open House, FCS
April 18-19 - Changing the Charity Paradigm Workshop, Altoona, PA
April 27 - Principles of Responsible Charity, Shallowford Presbyterian Church, Atlanta
May 3-4 - Changing the Charity Paradigm Workshop, Hickory, NC
May 21 - Reimagining Charity Seminar, Des Moines, IA
June 10-12 - Transformative Neighborhood Engagement, Grand Rapids, MI
July 11-12 - Open House, FCS
August 17-18 - Reimagining Charity Seminar, Muskingum Valley Presbytery, OH

Introducing The Newest Initiative at FCS

by Jim Wehner

In an average week, FCS will receive about a dozen calls for help. These calls are not from families in South Atlanta needing assistance. Rather, they are from individuals all over the country that have development questions for their organization or neighborhood.

One group has been given property and is trying to work with their city for development that is inclusive and healthy. Another call is from a denominational leader asking if FCS could provide a workshop speaker to start a conversation among their district churches about smart charity. Two other churches - in separate cities and contexts - contact FCS regarding housing issues. They both have property where they hope to offer affordable housing, and they are seeking guidance to set up their housing in a healthy way for both the church and community.

Our neighborhood has always been FCS’ number one focus. So for years, these calls received low priority. Yet the demand keeps growing. Last year we received over 300 calls for help. Thirty-eight years of work in neighborhood development and poverty alleviation has created a wealth of practical skills and wisdom. And the demand for that knowledge is significant.

In 2016, after 24 months of work behind the scenes, we are ready to introduce The Lupton Center, named in honor of our founder and friend, Bob Lupton. Our goal for the Center is to become a resource for organizations in their smart charity work and Christian community development.

We have been testing the market with workshops and events for two years, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Our goal is to raise $400,000 over the next two years specifically to create this program. After that, the center will be a source of income for FCS, returning funds to the overall mission of the organization. We hope you are also inspired by this vision, and we ask you to partner with us and consider a gift to support The Lupton Center this year.

Our Director, Shawn Duncan shares more details here. We are very proud of the work and thankful for those you that participate in supporting this program.

Sincerely,

Jim Wehner | President

Food Oasis In South Atlanta: A Year Later

by Jeff Delp

We are approaching the one year anniversary of Carver Market’s grand opening in Historic South Atlanta. It’s been an amazing experience watching the transformation from a food desert to a neighborhood market that is a place of life and health in the community.

In February, we had the honor of hosting Chef G Garvin, a celebrity chef, who prepared nutritious, tasty dishes with ingredients all found in the Carver Market! He cooked jambalaya, veggie-packed ground turkey, baked chicken, kale salad, and peach cobbler. Neighbors stopped by all afternoon to taste samples, take a photo with Chef Garvin, or ask him to autograph his cookbook. In fact, this event drew such crowds that it was our busiest day since we’ve opened! We’re excited for additional Chef demos that we will be hosting this spring.

Chef Garvin’s appearance was a kick-off for a current initiative for customers using Food Stamps - or EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer). Thanks to a partnership with Georgia Food Oasis and The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, we are able to offer double benefits for produce purchases on Thursdays from February through May. In the first three Thursdays we hosted these events, sales of produce more than doubled our typical average!  

We’ve been promoting healthy choices at the Carver Market in other ways, too. Working with the Emory Urban Health Initiative and Food Oasis, we now have labels throughout the store to help customers identify healthy food choices. We’ve also extended our prepared food offerings by selling cut fruit and yogurt parfait with Pure Bliss granola. These products are healthy alternatives for a quick breakfast or lunch.

The Carver Market continues to adjust our inventory to meet customer needs while also seeking to find local, nutritious products. In February, we began offering Georgia Grown grass fed meat from Hunter Cattle Company. Neighbors have been enjoying the availability of quality meat options in our store.

Thank you for your continued support of Carver Neighborhood Market. It’s a joy to bring new products into our community after so many decades of being by-passed by traditional retailers. We are continuing to build our customer base, grow our team, and fulfill our purpose in Historic South Atlanta. You are terrific partners in this journey, and we are so grateful!

The New Face of Global Missions

by Bob Lupton

Nicaragua is the Western Hemisphere’s best kept secret. Nestled on a narrow strip of land connecting North and South Americas, its unspoiled shorelines stretch along the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. 

A chain of volcanos adorn the entire length of the country, some glowing with molten lava, some sleeping under a blanket of tropical rain forests. Its ancient city of Granada reaches back to 1524, making it the first and oldest remaining European city in mainland America. Once the breadbasket of Central America, Nicaragua’s rich volcanic soil is ideal for agricultural abundance.

Were it not for decades of devastating political conflict, Nicaragua today would surely be the richest gem in the necklace of Central American states. Instead it is the poorest.

There is little point in describing Nicaraguan poverty. It resembles that of any other third-world country where peasants scratch out a bare existence while a narrow band of elites control the wealth. That’s how it has been for countless decades in Nicaragua, as one revolution after another has seized power and made their empty promises. But all that could be changing.  

Socialist president Daniel Ortega, while still spouting “power-to-the-people” rhetoric, is behaving somewhat more like a capitalist these days. And with one of his chief allies (the Castro brothers) normalizing relations with the US, the incendiary revolutionary oratory of the past appears to have diminishing returns. Enough stability has returned to the country to induce a trickle of international investors to take a risk.  

That’s precisely what a small group of Atlanta investors are doing. They secured a piece of land high on the rim of a huge caldera. Centuries ago underground springs filled this dormant volcano, creating a lake nearly five miles across.  

The water is pristine, a deep blue. Breezes from the cool water keep tropical temperatures comfortable day and night. The views from the top of the crater are breath-taking – miles of untouched rain forest, sister volcanos in the distance, the skyline of ancient Granada on the horizon.  

It is an idyllic location for a small destination hotel tucked into the natural beauty of this setting. Its name:  Pacaya Lodge and Spa.

But Pacaya Lodge and Spa is more than a five star financial investment. Though the investors do expect an acceptable rate of economic return, they are actually expecting much more. The lodge is a training ground for young Nicaraguans who will become experts in a budding hospitality industry.  

Students from Emprendedora, an entrepreneurial high school we established in partnership with Opportunity International, engage in hands-on internships that train them in every facet of hotel operations. By the time they complete two years of on-the-job learning, they will have a command of the English language and possess marketable skills in management, marketing, maintenance, finance, and food service. They will be prepared to take their place in a new generation of young entrepreneurs equipped to lead their nation into a new day of prosperity.  

Pacaya Lodge and Spa is tourism with a purpose.      

Want to take an exotic weekend get-away a mere three-and-a-half hour plane ride from Atlanta? Go to pacayalodge.com and book a romantic “casita.” And while you are in the country, make arrangements to visit Emprendedora and meet some of our bright young students.  

In addition to hospitality majors, you can also meet our agronomy students and allow them to show you around their impressive experimental farm. You may also want to see our state-of-the-art food processing plant that serves more than 1000 Nicaraguan farmers. By providing them agronomy support to increase their yields and by connecting them to international markets, subsistence farmers are now beginning to thrive.  

All this represents the new face of global missions, a new paradigm of promise that goes to the heart of poverty alleviation. Go see for yourself!

Photo credit: Ant & Carrie Coleman

Homeowner Profile: James

A home is essential to a family’s health and success. Charis Community Housing has been creating mixed-income housing opportunities for almost 30 years. And we want to introduce you to some of the people and families that have joined our community through the work of Charis. We introduced you to Tanisha. Today, meet James.

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

My name is James Baptiste. I'm from Miami, Florida, but I've been in Atlanta 10 years. I went to college to be a Veterinarian, but I got involved in the IT Boom in the late 90's. Now I'm a System Analyst at Public Broadcasting Atlanta.

When did you purchase your home in South Atlanta?

I had kind of given up looking for a house,  but around mid-2014, I signed up for Zillow Home notifications. My current house showed  up on list, and I loved it at first sight! In fact, I had not heard of the work of Charis until the final stages of home purchase. I bought my home in August 2014.  

What is your favorite thing about living in South Atlanta?

I work and live in the city, so the location is perfect. Plus, I always wanted to live within walking distance to a coffee shop! (See Community Grounds.)

How do you hope to see the community change in the next ten years?

I look forward to seeing more restaurants and bars come to the area.

What has home ownership meant to you?  

It's been a different experience. I actually never wanted to own a home until I started to see rent prices go through the roof! 

We're so excited to see so many great, new neighbors moving into South Atlanta! Interested in joining the community? Check out our current houses for sale!