The Growing Legacy of Community Grounds

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by Jatelle Woods

There have always been strong, positive attributes at Community Grounds, including its fun community and role as a valuable third space. As manager, I am always eager to improve and strengthen the shop as well. I am often thinking about the future of the coffee shop and the ways we can develop it to further benefit our community, as well as our staff team.

Currently, I am exploring strategic efforts to offer “more” - more snacks and more substantive food options, which some customers have requested. These additions can create opportunity for people to be able to stay longer when they don’t have to leave to find additional meal options. My other hope for the shop is to remodel. Aesthetics are a big part of making visitors feel comfortable in a space. I want everyone to feel welcome and at ease in Community Grounds. So as we consider expanding the kitchen to offer more food, I am also looking forward to areas we can improve the shop along the way.

My personal background is customer service, specifically Dominoes. I began as a customer service rep, and then progressed through their track as pie maker, then driver, store manager, a regional trainer, and finally a multi-unit supervisor. I’m someone who drives cultural change, which in turn drives sales. Producing results is important, but I care deeply about how our team feels when they come to work.

My big focus is developing our staff team internally. We have been able to add new positions to our team, including a management position to help cover our back room. This advancement has been great for development of staff. We seek to hire folks who maybe wouldn’t always be given a chance, and then we train them. As I look to the future, I hope to start educating our team on topics like profits and losses to help them understand our bigger context.

My hope is they will be able to use these skills at Community Grounds or wherever they may go in the future. When you empower other people with knowledge, you gain their respect. They also develop respect for the team they’re a part of. Most of us need to feel like we’re part of something bigger. FCS is mission-based, so our coffee shop and market staff talk about how we are contributing to that mission. What does it mean to our store and to each employee?

I’m grateful to wake up every day and do something I love for a purpose that inspires me. I know that our stores, as well as our staff development, are continuing to grow and flourish. For me, it feels good to know I’m impacting people. It pushes me to do my best. Yes, I’m serving customers, but I’m also serving my neighbors. There’s a certain amount of accountability that comes with that relationship. I can’t drive away and ignore the awful product I gave. I’m challenged to make Community Grounds and Carver Market the best they can be. Then, after I check out somebody’s groceries, we can walk out together.


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Generating $100,000 in Energy Savings

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“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18).

This verse inspires Buckhead Church’s passion for giving, serving, and loving their neighbors. They fund millions of dollars in projects with nonprofit partners and volunteer hundreds of thousands of service hours. Their congregation’s overwhelming generosity is leveraged to support positive work happening all over the world.

We were honored to be included in their Be Rich initiative this year and receive a gift for our housing ministry. Their donation will outfit our Charis rental properties with additional insulation and central HVAC (heating and air conditioning) systems. These valuable upgrades will produce meaningful energy savings for our families! In fact, the $25,000 investment will have an impact of $100,000 in savings for our families over three years.

For a family paying close attention to each bill that comes across the kitchen table, these kinds of savings are a significant blessing. Thank you, Buckhead Church and all your members who gave so freely. We are grateful to know our families will be comfortable in their homes year-round and that they will see long-term benefits thanks to these energy-saving initiatives.


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The Not-Very-FAQs in Charity

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by Shawn Duncan

Every website has one: The FAQ page.

You know, it’s that page everyone ignores as they send an email to some unlucky customer service representative who, of course, politely points them back to the FAQ page. (Can I get a witness?!)

In 2015, FCS launched a brand new division to focus on training and consulting: The Lupton Center, and we have worked with well over 300 different organizations. After leading trainings from Washington state to Pennsylvania, with small churches to county-wide collaboratives, from urban developers to rural service providers, we have come to expect certain topics and questions to emerge.

So I was asked to write a post about the Frequently-Asked-Questions we receive when on the road training and consulting. That, of course, would be of interest to those who are facing the same tensions others across the country are trying to resolve.

However, if we are going to detoxify our charity paradigms, I am finding it is the not-very-FAQs that are making the biggest difference.

The popular questions often revolve around detoxifying the specifics of a program model. The assumption is that charity’s toxicity resides primarily (if not solely) in the ways those with resources choose to distribute those resources to those in need of them.

Everyone (including me) would love a clear diagnostic tool that identifies the exact location of toxicity. Even better would be a proven prescription that would make the distribution of those material resources healthy.

We are willing to admit our programs may have toxic elements, but we are less apt to consider that toxicity may be residing in us. Toxicity reveals itself most profoundly in the lack of relationship - authentic, mutual relationship. This disconnection is what allows for us to think and act in terms of givers and receivers, clients and service provides, rather than as neighbors, sisters, kin.

If charity were to have its own DSM-IV, I would define this as a proximity disorder - the geographic and relational distance that prevents an accurate understanding of the challenges we face and inhibits the ability to design real and lasting solutions.

So, the Not-Very-FAQs-that-need-to-be-FAQs for charity practitioners are:

  • Am I in a personal relationship with anyone experiencing material poverty?
  • Am I being taught, led, or changed by those experiencing material poverty?
  • How do I get out of the “service provider” mentality and enter into the posture of neighboring?
  • What poverty am I experiencing that needs to be addressed?
  • How is my way of interacting with those experiencing material poverty causing harm?
  • What power dynamics exist in my relationships with others that are preventing us from truly knowing one another?
  • How can I work with a diverse coalition of neighbors to create space for mutual transformation, kinship, and belonging?

Don’t misunderstand - the FAQs matter. It is important that we address the toxic elements of our programs and the ways we engage our neighbors. But there is so much more to unpack. I hope we get the chance to lead a training in your community and work through these creative tensions together.

But the first step - if you are ready to being deconstructing and detoxifying charity - is in these not-very-FAQs that address our proximity disorder.


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