FCS Urban Ministries: focused community strategies



What A Grocery Store Means to My Neighborhood

FCS Ministries | 04.23.15 | No Comments »

By Sarah Quezada


Last night was one of those special, “glow-y” community moments. I walked into the new Carver Neighborhood Market and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic team of current and new employees. Then, I took in shelves upon shelves of diverse food options. “Amazing!” was my first thought.


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As I chatted with other neighbors, many of us shared a similar sentiment. I mean, we knew it would be a grocery store, but it’s like a GROCERY STORE! We were genuinely delighted by the availability of produce, staples, snacks, and household items. In our community, it was truly a unique sight to behold.


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My husband and I relocated to South Atlanta in 2009. It’s a challenge, sometimes, to explain to friends outside our neighborhood how we can live in a major city and still feel relatively cut off from basic businesses and services. But we do.


Still, last night as I looked around the new grocery store so close to my house, I felt almost emotional. It surprised me. After nearly a decade living in urban neighborhoods, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to have beautiful, clean retail space nearby. I’d forgotten that feeling of convenience and community that these valuable “third spaces” provide.


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I was also touched to see so many faces I didn’t recognize: people from outside our community who have invested their time, energy, and resources to open this store. There was a season when anything new happening in the neighborhood was dreamed, planned, and executed by the same residents and friends, staying up late at night to make something happen.




While those are fond memories, Carver Neighborhood Market is a powerful witness to how outside partnerships can support and catapult an idea into an innovative, and (hopefully) sustainable project in ways we couldn’t do alone.


Finally, I watched as my two year old dutifully lifted rolls of toilet paper off the shelves and handed them to me. “Good practice,” I told him. “Working here may very well be your first job one day!”


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There’s a sense of hope with the opening of the market that just probably isn’t true everywhere a grocery store opens. Hope that young people can find local jobs to learn how to work hard and gain important experience. Hope that new businesses will follow the market’s lead and open in our community. Hope that as more good things happen, more neighbors will move in and the momentum will roll forward.


It was truly a memorable night in South Atlanta. I’m thrilled about the opening of Carver Market and grateful for the work that’s gone on behind-the-scenes at Focused Community Strategies (FCS) to make this dream a reality.


Sarah Quezada is a South Atlanta resident and part of our founding member’s crew at Carver Neighborhood Market.

Partner Highlight: The Navigators

FCS Ministries | 04.21.15 | No Comments »

During FCS’ strategic planning process, we began to reevaluate and reestablish our community development model. We listened to the community, and we assessed our eight components. We saw a need for new youth development programs to be investing in the South Atlanta.


At the same time, Atlanta Navigators were launching their urban youth initiatives and looking across the city for partnerships. After much prayer and several conversations between FCS and The Navigators, we partnered to bring The Navigators’ after-school program into our target community of South Atlanta.




The Navigator’s Urban Youth Director Matthew Maxwell says he and other volunteers meet students when school lets out, and they walk together to FCS’ Gateway Building for the afternoon. Homework, plus additional math and reading exercises, takes first priority. Kids sit down by grade to complete their assignments.


This routine is not without its challenges, however. “Establishing the importance of completing homework and doing it correctly has been stressed. And each day the kids resist doing their homework a little less,” Maxwell says. “They are starting to see if they put a little effort into it they can do it and do it well. It’s fun to watch their confidence and belief in themselves and their abilities grow each day.”


After homework, it’s snack time and clean up. Then students enjoy crafts or a time to play games like kickball, dodgeball, or soccer. These typical after school activities open opportunities for life lessons, staff connection, and discipleship.


Recently, one student became angry when one of the games didn’t go his way. In frustration, he kicked a hole in a wooden door. As a consequence and process of restoration, he was expected to help replace the broken door.


Maxwell says, “We spent a day together during his Spring Break, purchased a door at Home Depot, and replaced the broken one with the new one. He had the opportunity to work with his hands, use power tools, and renew something that was broken. We also had the chance to get lunch and spend time together. This is where life-on-life discipleship really happens.”




Maxwell hopes the program will serve local students and help them mature their math and reading skills. There is also a desire to help kids connect in at Community Life Church’s youth group, which also meets in the same building.


The after school program also seeks to broaden students’ range of opportunities in experiences. They are already planning field trips to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home and museum, college campuses, summer camps, and more.


Youth development is a crucial element of neighborhood transformation. At FCS, we know we cannot meet all the needs of the neighborhood alone. We are grateful for partners like Matthew Maxwell and The Navigators, so we can work together to support and encourage youth in our South Atlanta neighborhood.

The Truly Worthy Poor

FCS Ministries | 04.17.15 | 1 Comment »

By Bob Lupton

People who give to those in need want to be assured that their gifts are used wisely. I certainly do. I don’t want my alms squandered by the irresponsible or unscrupulous. Since I am often in the position to determine who will or will not be given aid, I’ve attempted to establish a set of criteria by which to judge the worthiness of a potential recipient.




A truly worthy poor person:

is a widow above 65 years of age living alone in deteriorating housing; has no family or relatives nearby to care for her; has no savings; is disabled and cannot work; exists off her monthly social security check; is a woman of prayer and faith; trusts God to meet her needs; never asks anyone for help but graciously accepts what people bring to her; is not cranky.


A truly worthy poor family:

is close knit; has a working father who holds down two minimum wage jobs; has a stay-at-home mother who makes the kids obey, washes and irons clothes by hand and does not buy junk food; will not accept welfare; always pays rent and bills on time; has no automobile but is always punctual; kids do not cuss or tell lies.


A truly worthy poor person:

is a young man, out of school, not living off his mother; is unemployed but diligently applies for jobs every day; accepts gratefully any kind of work for any pay offered; does not smoke, drink, or use drugs; attends church regularly; does not sleep around; wears freshly pressed clothes (belted at waistline); is always clean shaven.


A truly worthy poor person:

is a young mother in public housing (only temporarily); has illegitimate children conceived prior to becoming a Christian; is now celibate; tithes her welfare check and food stamps; is a high school dropout but manages her finances well; reads books to her children and limits their TV watching to educational programs; prepares nutritious meals; walks everywhere to save bus fare; keeps her apartment spotless; insists on volunteering in exchange for food at the church food pantry; will not accept cash from family or friends that violates welfare rules.


I want to serve truly worthy poor people. The problem is, I can’t seem to find any. One of my fellow staff workers thought she recalled seeing one of them back in the early 1980’s but couldn’t remember for sure. She also reminded me that to be truly poor probably meant that one was desperate, clutching at every straw, impatient, manipulative, obsessed with immediate needs, little energy left for future planning. But truly worthy? Is any one of us, after all, truly worthy?


With tongue in cheek,

Bob Lupton

Image credit: Luis Felipe Salas

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What A Grocery Store Means to My Neighborhood

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Last night was one of those special, “glow-y” community moments. I walked into the new Carver Neighborhood Market and was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic team of current and… Continue reading


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