Last Thursday I attended the Council for Quality Growth’s annual dinner. They were honoring Chick-Fil-A’s Dan Cathy with their Four Pillars Award. Cathy accepted the award on the condition that he and others be allowed to talk about his latest effort, helping to revitalize Atlanta’s westside. Here is a video shown at the event:
At the Council for Quality Growth’s Four Pillar Award dinner on Oct. 1, Cathy also was to tell to attendees that the Chick-fil-A Foundation would be donating a total of $300,000 to the Westside Future Fund, an entity that has been established to serve as a focal point for corporate and philanthropic donors wanting to invest in the Vine City, English Avenue and surrounding communities.
“Individuals and businesses are going to have to be willing to prime the pump and get the fly wheels to start spinning again,” Cathy said in an interview a few days before the dinner. “We are going to try to stop this socio-economic divide that’s seen in so many urban markets. We are going to take a stand with others including the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.”
Among the groups spotlighted at the Four Pillars Tribute was City of Refuge, which Cathy has supported for several years now.
As someone who started working with homeless organizations 15 years ago, Cathy has always gravitated to practicing his Christian beliefs. In the past several years, he has teamed up with the nonprofit organization City of Refuge, which is trying to transform the 30314 ZIP code, an area that includes Vine City, English Avenue, Washington Park and several other distressed communities.
Bruce Deel, the founder of City of Refuge, easily cites the challenges. The 30314 ZIP code has some of the highest incidents of crime, foreclosures, poverty levels, incarceration rates and teen pregnancies in the Atlanta region.
The effort to help received a big boost last month as Atlanta was awarded a $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant which will be directed toward the westside communities.
Other, including Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank, have made additional substantial financial commitments to the area:
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has committed $15 million in help improve communities on the westside as part of an initiative that will parallel the construction of the stadium. Falcons owner Arthur Blank has even said that the community legacy will be more important to his overall success than the stadium project.
In addition, the city of Atlanta’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta, has committed another $15 million in Westside Tax Allocation District dollars to the area.
Cathy and the others getting behind this effort have big plans, but see this as crucial to our city and state:
“The great divide in the state of Georgia is Northside Drive,” Cathy said. “I have a very deep conviction about what it says about our society; about what it says about our own backyard. This is happening on our watch. We have got to fix it.”
Cathy said it is critical that all the initiatives currently underway to improve the west side of town join forces and coordinate their efforts. That way real progress can be made in the lives of the people who call Vine City and English Avenue home.
“I just want to put out a plea for all of us to set aside the politics and any self interests and do what we can in the best interest of our city — especially in this time of crisis,” Cathy said.
This is a very noble undertaking and one I hope succeeds.