The Rebirth of a Neighborhood

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By Cynthia McNeal, FCS’s Director of Housing

It’s an exciting summer for our FCS housing staff. We are jumping into a new season of creating affordable housing through new construction!

FCS has consistently purchased blighted properties, vacant houses, and boarded up homes because we know the importance a stable and affordable home can have for a family and a neighborhood. We also know the valuable role housing plays in creating a flourishing community.

In recent years, we’ve focused on rehabbing these homes and then selling or renting them to new neighbors. But over the next few months, we will be building eight new homes from the ground up! For the first time since 2013, we are constructing on four empty lots and demolishing four vacant homes, and we’ll build new dwellings in their place.

It’s a rebirth!

Housing prices in our neighborhood and in Atlanta continue to rise, and the need for affordable housing is great. Right now the most practical and economical way for us to to create affordable housing is by building it. And we are fortunate to work with a builder who sees the value in keeping costs low.

New development sparks life in our neighborhood. Residents watch formerly vacant lots or rundown, empty houses make way for vibrant homes with active families. Overgrown lots become looked after yards. And desolate streets become the places of block parties and pick-up basketball.

I’m excited to see the growth and to meet new neighbors. And many of the current residents have shared my excitement for what’s to come. The potential to have a new nextdoor neighbor opens doors for community and the experience of shalom. This is a great improvement from living next to an abandoned, overgrown property!

Next time you’re in South Atlanta, keep an eye out for new construction. Our neighborhood is worth investing in. We at FCS believe that, and we want to show our neighbors that, too.

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A New Look for Community Grounds

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By FCS

If you’ve been to Community Grounds recently, you might have noticed a few changes. There’s different artwork on the walls, a fresh layout, and new furniture around the shop!

A few months ago, we introduced you to Josh Barber, the new manager of Carver Market and Community Grounds, and he jumped right into the role, sprucing up our coffee shop. As a former barista in high school and with a background as an artist, Josh had immediate ideas about what changes to make.

In creating the new look for the coffee shop, Josh first spent time researching the history of Historic South Atlanta. When the neighborhood was formerly known as Brownsville, it was a flourishing community full of thriving shops and businesses. That image stuck with Josh as a desire to create a “comfortable and exceptional space where people want to be.”

Josh kept in mind all the functions the coffee shop serves when it was time to choose the furniture. Groups gather to study, friends meet each other to catch up, individuals settle in to work, and kids hang out after school. Taking all these needs into consideration, Josh wanted to create a space that would welcome everyone, and with a generous donation from Kairos Church, he got to work looking for furniture to fill the space.

Walking into the coffee shop now, there are plenty of tables and chairs for folks who come to work on their laptops. You’ll also find a kid-sized table for little ones to color and snack while their parents drink coffee. There’s a large meeting table in the center, and in the library space, tables and and cozy couches are available to those who come in to be productive, relax and read, or casually mingle with their friends.

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There’s also new artwork for sale on the coffee shop walls. Some was created by students at Carver High School, and other pieces belong to local artists. Our unique space - and the customers who visit - offer a great opportunity to showcase the work of these fantastic artists and to support the economic development of our local community.

But there is more Josh wants to do with community artists. Josh is collaborating to plan a regular open mic night for South Atlanta poets, spoken word artists, comedians, and musicians. He says, “It’s a coffee shop for community by community.” And in a neighborhood filled with so many talented artists, he’s excited to create a space for them!

Even as Community Grounds develops and changes, we know our coffee shop will continue to be a place of belonging for South Atlanta. We hope to welcome even more artists, workers, friends, and neighbors into our community space, and we hope to see you there!

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The Sacred Place of Camp

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By FCS

Twenty-eight kids and a few adults spilled out of vans into the parking lot. They were laughing about swimming in the lake, sharing stories about playing football, showing off their new step moves, and singing songs together. They shared communal joy and memories as they arrived back in South Atlanta after five days away at Camp Grace.

Going to camp is always a special time for the youth in our community, and this year was no different. Youth leader, Michelle Witherspoon, shared what a joy it is to be a part of camp. After working through homesickness with kids, watching them try new things, and seeing them create strong friendships, she says “I was really proud of them, it takes courage to leave what you know and challenge yourself to do things you haven’t done.”

The obstacles and challenges at camp are bountiful. Some campers face the new experience of their first extended trip away from home. The rock wall, the “Big Swing,” and the zipline can be scary for those with a fear of heights. Swimming in a lake where you can’t see the bottom can also be nerve wracking, especially for those who grow up in the city.

But in the week of camp, the teens were eager to take these challenges head on. There was a willingness to try - and a willingness to fail, then get back up again - that is only cultivated in a supportive environment like camp. As one of the teenagers said, “The rock wall was a big challenge, and I wanted to push myself, so I did it.“

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Not only did the week at camp bring about obstacles and risks, but it also was a time of spiritual growth. One example happened at circle time, where campers gather to talk with their leaders about highs and lows of the day. One of the questions was “Where is God speaking to you this week?” Eight-year-old Brandon eagerly shot up his hand to respond. He had been practicing swimming all week but was afraid of taking the swim test. Brandon answered, “I was so afraid to take the swim test, and I wasn't going to do it. But God told me to have the courage to do it, and so I did!” And he passed his swim test!

It’s moments like these that make camp special. Not only did Brandon learn how to swim during the week at camp, but he also owned and understood how God spoke to him. In the sacred place of camp, students have the opportunity to be vulnerable and honest with each other. It’s where they feel safe and act as kids for the week. It’s where they can open their eyes and ears to God. And through these shared experiences and challenges, they become united, relating to each other on a deeper level.

As the kids head back into the rest of the summer, many are still carrying the excitement from camp. Even in the few weeks since camp, there has been connectedness among the youth and a deeper understanding of each other. In a youth group with kids from different schools, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds, a shared experience brings reconciliation and moves kids towards each other just a little more.

Thank you so much for supporting our South Atlanta youth at camp this summer!

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