by Kacey Dennis, guest writer
I was about seven years old when I watched the opening ceremonies for the GlenCastle apartments. My mom and I had just returned to Atlanta after my parents divorced, and we had been searching for a place to live that we could afford. A woman at a bus stop came up to my mom and told her about Charis Community Housing and GlenCastle. We moved in the day it officially opened!
My mom was the first Resident Manager of GlenCastle, and she was amazing at caring for the residents who were our neighbors. I loved living in GlenCastle! It was such a cool place to live, and I loved our apartment. We lived on the third floor and had windows that wrapped around and you could see the Atlanta skyline. People called it the penthouse.
Mostly, I have fond memories of having a safe place. GlenCastle was so family-oriented, and we knew most of the folks who lived there. As a kid, I made fast friends, who are now some of my best friends from childhood. We had camp there every summer, and college students would live at GlenCastle to run it. We probably wore them out knocking on their doors at all hours, wanting to play! At the end of every summer, we’d perform a talent show of sorts on the front porch of GlenCastle. It was so fun.
Across the parking lot, at the Blacksmith Shop, I began dancing with Moving in the Spirit. The whole GlenCastle campus was a bustling place of family-friendly activity. I remember the Junior League would come and take us to Braves games and community events. Each year, I looked forward to the FCS Fall Festival, where Moving in the Spirit would perform and there were booths and tables to serve the community.
My mom also became a Christian while living at GlenCastle, and we started a church at the Blacksmith Shop. A woman named Reverend Love would preach, and we had a small choir. That church was a game changer for our family.
Also at GlenCastle, my mom met my step father. They moved out of GlenCastle and into FCS’ duplexes, which served families recovering from addiction. My mom managed the properties for FCS, and eventually became the Chaplain of GlenCastle.
My mom eventually left to start her own ministry, but she stayed connected for years after to FCS. When Charis was having a party to celebrate homeownership, she asked me, now a young adult having completed graduate school in professional counseling at Georgia State, to go with her.
We sat at a table with Dana Lupton, Executive Director of Moving in the Spirit. I had known her when I was a young dancer, but she didn’t recognize me since I’d long outgrown my Coca-Cola glasses, braids, and buck teeth. (Thank God for contacts and braces!)
Dana mentioned a possible job opening coming soon to Moving in the Spirit to run their mentoring program. I wasn’t sure I was interested, but by the time it became available, I was ready to apply. I was hired in 2007 to direct their mentor program and coordinate volunteer opportunities. In July of 2015, I transitioned to become Moving in the Spirit’s HR Manager.
The GlenCastle campus has had a major impact on my life, and it’s so incredible to see it coming full circle. Growing up, so many friends lived in the projects, and I know it could have been an option for my family. But GlenCastle was an alternative that opened doors, and I’m thankful that my family benefited and now and both my mom and my own family have our own homes.
At the same time, the ministries that ministered to me as a child, especially Moving In the Spirit, are also growing up and moving out of that same space. We have opened a new facility this year in Old Fourth Ward, and we are in the process of constructing a state-of-the-art theater space in conjunction with Atlanta’s transit development. Meanwhile, FCS is relocating to South Atlanta, where they can continue to provide safe, affordable places to live for families who need it most.
I’m happy the building will continue to stand, and I can drive by and remember the good memories I’ve had there. And I’m excited about the new beginnings for myself, FCS, and Moving in the Spirit as we step into the next phase of our journeys.
Kacey Dennis is HR Director for Moving in the Spirit, a nationally-recognized youth development program incubated by FCS and uses the art of dance to positively transform the lives of children and teens in Atlanta, Georgia. She lives in College Park with her husband and two kids (pictured above).