by Katie Delp
Crockpot ribs. Peach cobbler. Hot dogs. There’s nothing better than lounging outside on a warm summer evening, sharing a meal or a sweet treat with neighbors. In my almost two decades in the neighborhood, I have experienced this scene over and over again. And it continues to encourage my heart and fuel my love of South Atlanta.
Anyone who’s been to an FCS Open House or heard me share about our work in the community has heard me say how it is anchored by neighboring. Living in the community is foundational to the mission of FCS and is one of our core values. In fact, I would even call it the secret sauce of neighborhood ministry!
In my experience, neighboring opens doors for true connection and mutually transformative relationships in a unique and powerful way. It’s easy to walk up from the outside and make suggestions for what needs to be addressed in South Atlanta. But that’s not always in line with the desires of the community. As a local nonprofit leader who lives in the community, I often hear from the hearts of neighbors and share in the frustrations that many residents express need to change. I am not an outsider looking in, but a resident looking over at my neighbor as we work together.
These relationships, built over years of daily interactions, create a mutuality that impacts us both. Before Carver Market - when the space served as a thrift store - many regulars were people struggling with homelessness and stability. We were happy to offer a cup of hot coffee, a clean t-shirt, and a moment of conversation. Once, upon learning it was my toddler daughter’s birthday, one regular visitor exclaimed with delight. She fished in her pocket to retrieve some loose change, and she offered it as a birthday gift to my child. It was a beautiful exchange between people who lived in close proximity and shared the ins-and-outs of daily life and the celebrations of a child’s birthday.
I deeply believe that neighbors change neighborhoods. And moving into a community helps sustain our commitment to long-term change. When Purpose Built Schools began its work in our community, I was thrilled to be able to leverage both my nonprofit position and my passion as a neighborhood parent to help support their work in our local schools. My role as neighbor continues to be a foundational driver of my work and ministry in South Atlanta.
There are always reasons that families can’t move into the neighborhood, and I respect that. But I believe deeply that shared proximity cultivates unstoppable creativity, passion, and teamwork. We share needs, and we collaborate on solutions. Most of FCS’ programs have been born out of relationships with neighbors, and it is our shared life that often sustains these efforts ongoing. I cannot say it enough how often I see the value and importance of being a good neighbor.