Next July, Bruce Deel will celebrate 20 years since he came to Atlanta to assist with the closing of a church. Located in one of Atlanta’s most impoverished and crime-filled neighborhoods, where nearly 40 percent of the residents live below the federal poverty level, the City of Refuge today has transformed the lives of 20,000 people. The sprawling campus encompasses 200,000-square-foot. warehouse in the heart of the troubled 30314 neighborhood on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard in northwest Atlanta, which was formerly Simpson Road.
The 20th anniversary is just the beginning of the accomplishments for the City of Refuge. On Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, the city of Atlanta, Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A pledged $7.5 million to the City of Refuge to help transform Westside Atlanta through a vocational training and entrepreneurial program.
Many of the people who will benefit are residents of Westside neighborhoods, which have been devastatingly impacted by the recession and recently became the focus of development programs.
The grant will be used to construct and operate a Workforce Innovation Hub to teach people skills to prepare for careers in auto tech and retail, the culinary arts, landscaping, security services and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) installation and repair. A computer-coding academy will also be created for young adults along with a small business incubator and accelerator for aspiring entrepreneurs. Planning for the Workforce Innovation Hub is underway, with construction anticipated to commence in the coming months and conclude September 2019.
Coca-Cola’s portion of the gift, $1.25 million, will support City of Refuge’s provision of vocational training, job readiness and entrepreneurial skills development for approximately 400 women through the 180º Kitchen Culinary Arts Academy, NAPA Auto Training Center, and the development of a Women’s Business Incubator and Accelerator Program. The grant will also support training for more than 150 men, and help them find employment in food service or automotive maintenance and repair, and provide education and training for entrepreneurs.
“We’re proud that our Foundation is partnering with other passionate members of the Atlanta community to support this new vocational training effort that will improve the lives of men and women, young people, parents and families throughout our Westside neighborhood,” Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company, said in a statement to press. “There is no better time than now for progressive initiatives like this, which will help us strengthen our communities.”
The Chick-fil-A Foundation will donate $5 million over the next five years to the City of Refuge. The remaining portion of $1.25 million is being given by the city of Atlanta.
In October 2015, when Chick-fil-A unveiled plans to open a new restaurant in Vine City, Cathy said in a statement to the press, “We made a promise to the city of Atlanta to do everything we could to do our part in helping revitalize the Westside neighborhood. “This restaurant is just one measure of our overall commitment to the effort. It is our hope that the restaurant will help foster community within the neighborhood and offer an environment where families will share meals, business people can meet, and neighbors experience genuine heartfelt hospitality.” The restaurant will be adjacent to Wal-Mart and located at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Lowery Boulevard. While the restaurant is still in the early planning stages, Chick-fil-A anticipates the 4,000-square-foot location to open in early 2017 and create a minimum of 50-60 new job opportunities for area residents.
The combined investment lays a solid foundation for the launch of City of Refuge’s capital campaign, “Shining the Light,” with a goal to raise $25 million by 2018 to support organization programs.