Thomasville Heights is a small neighborhood in the southeast corner of Atlanta. The tight-knit neighborhood has a colorful and storied past, but the historically African American community has grappled with a lack of access to opportunity and severe levels of crime and poverty. The median household income is $10,480, compared to $49,398 in the City of Atlanta and $59,183 in the metro Atlanta region. 20.1% of the population is unemployed.
The Spark Opportunity Giving Circle has made a commitment to focus their attention and investments to addressing these injustices and closing the vast opportunity gap in Thomasville Heights in three areas: community leadership development and empowerment; developing nonprofit capacity; and strengthening anchor institutions. The group recently granted $180,538 to organizations working in Thomasville Heights.
Knowing that the neighborhood’s greatest power is its residents, these grants were grounded in the principles of asset-based community development, which focus on honing and leveraging existing strengths within the community to create solutions to community problems.
One highlight includes a grant of $28,200 to Bearing Bike Shop to support Gearing Up, an intervention program for struggling students at Thomasville Heights Elementary School and Price Middle School. Launched in 2018 in partnership with Purpose Built Schools, the program gives student participants the opportunity to earn a bicycle by completing a specified number of hours working in a bike shop while learning activities related to bike repair and maintenance. Staff coach students through mechanical curriculum, building positive developmental relationships and using authentic experiences to teach responsibility, communication and critical thinking. Despite the newness of this program, Bearings Bike Shop participants have already experienced early successes, including an increase in self-confidence, growth in teamwork abilities and development of emotional and intellectual problem-solving skills.
The full list of Spark Opportunity grants is detailed below.
Community Leadership Development and Empowerment:
$35,000 grant to establish and pilot the Spark Community Fund, an approach to community leadership development that includes both formal training and empowerment through the exercise of leadership determining the uses and allocations of a dedicated fund controlled by and for residents of Thomasville Heights. This program is currently under construction.
Developing Nonprofit Capacity:
Bearings Bike Shop – $28,200 to support Gearing Up, a youth development program
HABESHA – $18,000 to provide internship wages for two ambassadors in the Urban Green Jobs Initiative
Consultant/Facilitator – $15,000 to regularly convene nonprofit service providers for collective impact
Strengthening Anchor Institutions:
Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation – $35,000 to cover one half of the salary and benefits for a newly created community assistance coordinator postion
Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta – $32,558 to expand Career Bound, a comprehensive teen workforce development program
CHRIS180 – $11,300 to provide trauma training to community partners
Purpose Built Schools – $5,480 to implement a reading program focused on parent engagement
The Spark Opportunity Giving Circle brings together Community Foundation donors to deepen their understanding and commitment to closing the stark income and opportunity disparities in our region. Learn more about Spark Opportunity here.