FCS Urban Ministries: focused community strategies



Carver Neighborhood Market: A Food Oasis

FCS Ministries | 01.27.15 | No Comments »

The phrase “food desert” has become more common in recent years. The US Department of Agriculture defines urban food deserts as low income communities where a third of the community lives more than a mile from a grocery store. A mile may not sound far, but limited transportation makes healthy food inaccessible to many urban residents.


Image credit: Charlotte90T

In fact, in the Atlanta area, more than half a million people live in what the USDA would identify as food desserts. As you would expect, diminished access to healthy food choices can lead to poor nutrition, obesity, and diet-related health concerns.

Food is a problem that inspires solutions, and FCS Community Economic Development has been working to introduce a “food oasis” to our South Atlanta neighborhood. We believe there is a sustainable business solution to the issue of food in our community.


As 2015 dawns, we are already preparing for the launch of the grocery store. A new thrift store is opening up in our community, allowing us to transform our South Atlanta Marketplace thrift store space into the new Carver Neighborhood Market. Sales have been going on for weeks as neighbors take advantage of the transition to get some fantastic deals!

Plans are moving forward, and you can follow the developments on the market’s Facebook and Twitter pages. FCS’s social media will provide updates as well, and you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Interested in helping us launch this innovative project? Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Volunteer – We’ve got several small group projects available for February. For details, contact Jeff (jeff at fcsministries dot org).
  • Meet a need – We are looking for partners who can help with our website, connect us to local food growers and/or suppliers, or donate materials for flooring and ceiling. If you or someone you know can help, please contact Jeff as well.
  • Donate – Supporters inside and outside of the community have raised close to what we need to launch the store. Please consider a gift to push this project forward. You can give here.

It’s exciting work, and neighborhood residents are eager to see the Carver Neighborhood Market become a reality. We hope that in the near future, our community will no longer be labeled a food desert. There is so much hope around creating a neighborhood space that benefits the health and community-building life of our neighborhood.


Carver COming

When Outside Gifts Bless Community Work

FCS Ministries | 01.22.15 | No Comments »

By Jim Wehner

The Charis staff was talking yesterday about one of the houses we are currently renovating. It will be beautiful when we are done. It will be important on the street, and the family that purchases it will be integral to our work of re-neighboring the blocks.

Cynthia, the managing director for our housing partner Charis Community Housing, was adding up the expenses on this property. Even though it has so much to offer the community, it is becoming clear that we are not going to cover our costs on this house.


The conversation is what we call a “process check.” In 2008-2009, we pulled together a task force made up of men and women of faith that work in the Real Estate industry (builders, agents, lawyers and an architect). This commited task force  helped  us develop and clarify a process that would keep Charis healthy and enable us to do sustainable ministry. They developed a strong business plan and pro forma (budgeting process).

A process check is a simple way of saying we (Cynthia and I) are comparing the work that we have done on this house against that plan and pro forma. It is not surprising that we found two mistakes.

First, in the pressure to complete the house on time, we had begun work without finalizing our construction budget. When we ran into an unexpected (and unbudgeted) structural issue on the house, we made a second mistake. We did not add those new costs into the budget and subtract other work so that we could stay on plan.

These are easy mistakes to make in the remodeling process. Fortunately, because of the work done by our task force to create a clear set of guidelines, we can make adjustments prior to completing the project. We can hold ourselves accountable to a healthy process.

When I think about the gift those members of our housing task force gave to Charis and FCS five years ago, I am extremely humbled and blessed by the way the body of Christ can work together to serve a whole neighborhood.  Their expertise has provided more than $2.5 million in development of affordable and market rate housing in our focus neighborhood.

Housing redevelopment is not a sure thing.  It takes a specific skillset, as well as capital, to support the work. The ability to draw from the gifts of others and hold ourselves accountable is a huge gift to the organization and the community and a daily reminder of the power of body of Christ working together.

Smart Charity

FCS Ministries | 01.20.15 | No Comments »

by Bob Lupton

Our world is getting smarter.

We have smart cars that can drive themselves, smart phones that can answer all our questions, smart watches that bring the world to our wrist.  We have SMART planning (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-specific) that assures positive outcomes.

We have smart growth that turns our cities into desirable live-work-recreate environments. Seems like everything is getting smarter these days.

DeathtoStock_Creative Community5

We like smart. Smart reflects our creativity, our intelligence. Smart keeps us on the cutting edge of innovation. It makes life safer, convenient, efficient.

In so many ways, smart makes our lives better. But there is one significant arena that smart has yet to impact. Charity.

Sure, some social media enthusiasts take stabs at it, like cause-related flash mobs and media-ignited fund-raisers. But these mostly end up being little more than flash-in-the-pan slacktivism. (Slacktivism is a newly coined word combining “slacker” and “activism” that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist.)

Smart Charity is something altogether different from slacktivism. It goes far deeper than Twitter hits and Facebook friending. BOGO (buy one give one) charity doesn’t even come close.

Smart Charity is complicated, maybe as complex as rocket science, and has not yet been adequately defined, let alone implemented on any scale. But the discussion has begun.

So let me contribute a few observations that may lend some clarity to the charity industry as it inches its way toward greater effectiveness.

• Smart Charity is about impact – how the served are effected, not just the servers.
• Smart Charity is mutually beneficial – everyone has something to contribute
• Smart Charity is about outcomes – activity is not the same as results
• Smart Charity engages the mind – not merely the heart
• Smart Charity is responsible – insists upon due diligence
• Smart Charity is wise – rejects simplistic solutions
• Smart Charity is comprehensive – understands complexities, the inter-connectedness of life
• Smart Charity is holistic – resists piecemeal approaches
• Smart Charity is personal – efficiency does not equal effectiveness

Unlike the smart movement that strives to make everything easier and more convenient for us, Smart Charity will likely do the opposite. It will require more effort, be more costly, and consume more time than either the traditional or slacktivist approaches to charity. This is doubtless why the smart industry is so slow in entering the charity market.

The good news is that a new generation of millennials is at least as compassionate as their parent’s generation, and they are beginning to ask the right questions. They appear to be less inclined toward lazy charity (writing checks to fund traditional programs) and much more interested in accountable charity (hands-on, personal involvement). And besides, they are really smart.

There is reason to be hopeful that Smart Charity will eventually become a dominate force in the charity market, edging out the lesser forms that tend to do more harm than good.

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Carver Neighborhood Market: A Food Oasis

The phrase “food desert” has become more common in recent years. The US Department of Agriculture defines urban food deserts as low income communities where a third of the community lives more than a… Continue reading


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