When I moved to Atlanta 10 years ago, I was: carless, homeless, and only had one contact in the whole city. I say I moved here on faith, others say that I was stupid. Whichever it was, I believed that I was following God's lead to come and serve in the city. My desire was to help people living in impoverished neighborhoods to turn their neighborhoods around on their own. I came up with this idea after reading John Perkins' book Beyond Charity and was ready to impact the world one neighborhood at a time!
Needless to say, God had amazing things in store for my life that had nothing to do with my original desire. As many of you know, the first person I met helped me start my first job (DOOR). The second person I met is currently my wife and mother of my children. She in turn connected me to Bob Lupton and Leroy Barber, and my life has not been the same ever since. What has transpired over the past 10 years is nothing short of miraculous. When I left for Atlanta on July 7, 2001, I could not have envisioned a better place to be in my life than where I am today.
Where I am today is leading FCS Community Economic Development. Remember that desire that I came to Atlanta with 10 years ago, well it fell onto my lap about 2 years ago. After serving with DOOR & Mission Year since moving to Atlanta, I was asked to lead FCS Community Economic Development (CED). At the time, CED was struggling to make it financially and they needed someone to come in and try to right the ship. When I started, there was one store (South Atlanta Marketplace), it created 2 jobs, offered 80 hours of work a week, was $10,000 in debt, and was merely an after-thought in peoples mind in the community.
Today, CED employs 10 part-time and 1 full-time positions through 5 different programs (Refugee Beads, Community Grounds, Pride for Parents, South Atlanta Bike Shop, and South Atlanta Marketplace), offers over 200 hours of employment a week, has sent two employees off to college, and has become the heartbeat of our community. Two years ago, if the stores closed the loss in the community would have been minimal. Today, if the stores were to close, there would be a significant loss for our neighborhood to recover from.
I am proud to say that with God's help, the transformation of the CED is almost complete. Since I have started with CED, we have operated in the black - meaning we are no more behind than we were the day I started 2 years ago. But we still maintain the same level of inherited debt and that has impeded our ability to take CED to the next level - sustainability.
I believe strongly in the value and mission of what we do through each of our programs. We are empowering individuals and families in South Atlanta to change their neighborhood from within- exactly what I felt called to 10 years ago. In order for us to succeed at this mission and become sustainable in what we do, the time has come to get rid of the "albatross" that hangs around our neck.
I have made a pledge to raise $10,000 in the next 3 weeks, by November 25th, to help break free from what has been holding us back. Why the 25th? 1) It is my birthday (great birthday present idea) and 2) It is also Black Friday. Black Friday gets its name because it is the day that retailers traditionally move from the "red" into the "black" for the year. For us, when we raise $10,000 before November 25, we will eliminate any doubt that we will be able to continue to provide these jobs and services in South Atlanta through 2012 and can call it "Freedom Friday." It would also be one of the best birthday presents I've ever received.
I am asking you to consider giving a special gift over the next 3 weeks to help propel us forward into 2012. Please consider supporting us with a special one time gift. Your gift will help ensure that we can continue with our mission to provide jobs, job training, positive community space, and hope in our neighbors that with their own hard work they can make it in life.
In order to give, you can do one of the following:
1) Give online at www.fcsministries.org/get-
involved and choose FCS Community Economic Development from the drop down menu.
2) Write a check to:
FCS Community Economic Development
PO Box 17628
Atlanta, GA 30316
Thank you for supporting us and partnering with us over the past 2 years. I would not be here without you. From all of the people that you have helped impact over the past 2 years, I say thank you. You have made a lasting difference in someone's life by supporting CED and I hope you will allow CED to continue to do so in 2012 by making a special one time gift!