By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published December 6, 2012
Four nonprofit agencies are starting a collaboration to help struggling families in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward become financially secure.
Catholic Charities Atlanta is embracing this initiative at the new Martin Luther King Sr. Community Resources Complex, named for the long-time pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and father of the civil rights icon.
“The potential for this project, given who’s involved, given the community we are working in, I think it has a huge potential to make a big impact,” said Joe Galvin, the chief operating officer of Catholic Charities Atlanta.
The new resource center is at Ebenezer Baptist Church, on Auburn Avenue, a church with a long history of advocacy. Organizers hope this effort becomes a national model bringing together faith-based groups with government agencies and other nonprofits to assist families out of poverty.
“Through a recession, Ebenezer Baptist Church has constructed the Martin Luther King Sr. Community Resources Complex to extend our long legacy of standing for the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised in order to build what Martin Luther King Jr. called the beloved community,” said the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Working with the poor was part of the life of the elder King, who was known as Daddy King. He was a major figure in the Georgia civil rights movement, leading the NAACP in Atlanta. He fought for equal teachers’ salaries for black teachers in Atlanta’s segregated schools and helped fight Jim Crow laws.
Despite new large condo developments and trendy bars, the community in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood faces deep unemployment with many families living below the poverty level. The resources in the 32,000-square-foot complex will be focused on improving the economic stability of families by working with residents to promote financial literacy, work force development, education and family support.
The partners with Catholic Charities Atlanta in the collaborative are the Center for Working Families, Operation Hope, and Casey Family Programs.
Catholic Charities will bring its one-on-one problem solving know-how to the effort. The goal is to teach individuals and families how to resolve problems on their own and tap into community resources to help their situation, Galvin said.
“We don’t do it for them. We teach them to become self-reliant,” he said.
The goal is to have four Catholic Charities staff members assigned there, with additional help from college interns. Galvin said the Catholic Charities staff would likely begin work there in late 2013.
The new center is also home to photos and historic artifacts from the life of King and his wife, Alberta Williams King, who was shot to death by a mentally ill man inside the original Ebenezer Church’s sanctuary in 1974 while playing the organ during a Sunday service. The organ is on display for the first time here.
The collaboration between Catholic Charities Atlanta and the three other organizations at the Martin Luther King Sr. Community Resources Complex will be CCA’s largest joint project. The initiative helps to anchor the Catholic nonprofit in downtown Atlanta to serve people in need once its administrative offices move to the Archdiocese of Atlanta headquarters in Smyrna. Also, it’s in line with the agency’s strategic goal to focus resources on family stabilization programs.