When I turned 15, I did what many teens my age did I went job hunting. With a mom that worked, a step dad that worked two jobs, and a dad who could not drive, my options were limited to where I could walk or ride my bike. My first stop was Bi-Lo, the discount grocery store at the edge of my neighborhood. My older brother worked there and it was a short walk from my house. Because I lived in a small town, I knew many of the people that worked there, including the owner of the store. Thankfully, they were hiring and I was able to get a job on my first try. This was the beginning of an eight year journey of part-time employment that lasted throughout high school, college, and even led to full-time employment a year after college.
Now I am on the other side of the hiring process. I am the manager of a community business. This past week I put out a notice that the South Atlanta Marketplace was looking for someone to work 8 hours a week. Within 3 days, I had 10 applications. Most of the 10 are young people, under the age of 18, that are looking for the same opportunity that I had when I was growing up. I wish I could hire them all. What a blessing for one young person (at least for now) that within walking distance of his home is a place that is able and willing to hire him. Perhaps this job will start this young person on a journey that includes finishing high school, going to college, and entering the work force prepared.
I got hired on my first job at the first place that I tried. However, if that had not worked out, I had several other options. None as close and convenient as Bi-Lo but there were others. Unfortunately, the same opportunities are not so available to my neighbors in South Atlanta. Legitimate employment opportunities are few and far between in our neighborhood. I am concerned about the 9 others that I will not be able to hire. Statistics show what happens to young people in urban communities when they are unable to engage in positive activities, the picture is not pretty. I think about myself, and what would have happened had I not found employment when I was 15. Even with the job at Bi-Lo, I still found ways to get into trouble occasionally, but being engaged at work definitely provided me with something positive in my life to keep me from drifting too far down a wayward path. I believe that there is a strong correlation between that first job at Bi-Lo and where I am today.
Where I am today is the Executive Director of a non-profit that seeks to provide the same opportunities that I was afforded when I was 15. It is the mission of FCS Community Economic Development (CED) to equip individuals and families to strengthen themselves economically. CED impacts the lives of low-income families by increasing their purchasing capacity and placing economic power back into the hands of the community. The program emphasizes the importance of honorable work and economic empowerment as essential to human dignity. It provides employment with health-care benefits and quality merchandise at affordable prices, thus avoiding the spirit-eroding effects of subsidies and handouts.
For those of you that have supported us in the past, we thank you for your support. 2009 was a year of transition for CED. After many years of service to the communities of Grant Park and South Atlanta, we said goodbye to the Family Store and Home Resource. It was time to re-design our vision. What has grown up in their place are the fresh ideas and visioning of South Atlanta residents themselves: The South Atlanta Marketplace (still carries on the Pride for Parents and Back to School campaigns), Community Grounds Café, and Firetongue Music Studios.
Starting a small business, no matter where, is a difficult and challenging proposition. Add to that the challenge of starting three businesses in a place most businesses have left plus the current economic climate and there is no doubt that our work is cut out for us. However, surmounting challenges in difficult terrain is the work we have been called to. We believe in a God that cares deeply for the poor and a God who can also move mountains. So we forge ahead with our mission, in the hope that God will provide the necessary resources. But certainly we cannot succeed without the support and personal involvement of caring friends like you.
On the attached page, you will find a list of ways that we invite you to engage with us in this mission. There are a variety of options; hopefully there is one or more that will suit you, your family, your church, or your place of business. During this start-up period, revenue from our businesses will cover about 60% of our operating costs on a monthly basis. And it will take a year or more to operate at full capacity in terms of employment and benefits to our employees. Your contributions, whatever they are, will help us to grow toward full capacity and provide much needed economic opportunities to residents of South Atlanta. We need your help getting there. Will you consider investing with us? Follow this link to our response form and return it to us, will you? If you wish to donate online, you can visit: www.prideforparents.org/donate. Your partnership with us is vitally important.
Thanks for your support. We’ll keep you informed on our progress.