City of Refuge
In the heart of
Observe love in action at www.cityofrefuge.cc
The House of Shechem (2007)
Whoopi Strozier and Lindsey Givens come from different backgrounds, but both see their calling to love and serve women in crises. Whoopi lived on the streets for 47 years doing drugs and stealing, until she surrendered her life to God in 2003 and was baptized in the back of a pick-up truck at Castleberry Meats in Atlanta. Since then, she has become a critical staff person at City of Refuge, using her understanding of street life to connect to the people she serves. Lindsey, on the other hand, grew up in affluent Marietta. She compares a season of her life to the story of the prodigal, which through restoration birthed in her a heart of compassion. Last September, she fell in love with City of Refuge while volunteering in its feeding ministry, and has since come on staff with City of Refuge.
Two miles west of the Georgia Dome is where Whoopi and Lindsey are managing The House of Shechem, City of Refuge’s new women’s transitional house. The shelter idea started at CityLights in May of 2005 during a tour of the new Gateway Center. Jeff Gray, one of City of Refuge’s directors, realized the need for another resource center for women and children in crisis. One year later, the United Way contacted Jeff asking if City of Refuge could direct funds designated for women’s transitional housing. Two weeks later, City of Refuge had a check in hand for that very purpose. At the same time, City of Refuge was contacted by the owners of the 22 bedroom house on Arcadia Street, less than a mile from the City of Refuge campus, asking to help with a ministry at the site.
The name House of Shechem comes from one of the Old Testament cities meaning “strong shelter.” The facility operates under a working house model. It costs nothing for the women and children to move in from the streets. The women are expected to find jobs and, once working, make small weekly payments to help with the house expenses, while also enabling them to save. Since its beginning a few months ago, women have been reunited with their parents, enrolled in college, found apartments, and taken jobs.
City of Refuge’s base is its eight-acre Simpson Road campus and warehouse, where they also serve through feeding, cold-weather sheltering, kids programs, legal advocacy, job training, and a resource center. Another new ministry of City of Refuge will be a commercial kitchen designed to train 16 to 21 year-olds from the community in culinary arts, while also serving as an income generator through its catering and restaurant divisions. For more information about City of Refuge, please go to www.cityofrefuge.com
Occupational Training Center (2004)
Send me, therefore, a man skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson and blue yarn, and experienced in the art of engraving, to work in Judah and Jerusalem with my skilled craftsmen, whom my father David provided. Send me also cedar, pine and algum logs from Lebanon . . . my men will work with yours to provide me with plenty of lumber, because the temple I build must be large and magnificent. 2 Chronicles 2:7-9
Bobby Lynch and Aaron Clark of the Occupational Training Center (OTC) may not order gold and silver, bronze and iron, or multi-colored yarns for their warehouse and metal-works facilities, but the industrial machines, high-voltage electric power, and parts-making accessories they need to get the OTC off the ground are, to them and to the Simpson Road community, just as precious as Solomon's metals. In fact, Lynch and Clark's objectives for the OTC are quite similar to Solomon's goals for his temple in that they desire to build a place dedicated to the glorification of God and for the redemption of a forgotten people.
On Tuesday, November 9th, City Lights met at the Occupational Training Center's 30,000 square foot warehouse in the heart of "The Bluff," a rough inner-city neighborhood located two miles west of the Georgia Dome. The meeting began in OTC's refurbished office facilities. With excitement and passion, Lynch described the process of renovating the warehouse, which was donated by Mimms Enterprises to City of Refuge - of which OTC is a branch - just over a year ago. Walls needed to be re-plastered and bricks needed to be re-laid; bathrooms were gutted and tile flooring was put down; permits for lighting were applied for, and business plans were drawn. Lynch and Clark, who hold a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Auburn University and a Master's of Social Work from the University of Georgia, respectively, knew that they needed to make an investment in OTC's property before they could make an investment in the people.
The investment in the people of "The Bluff," however, is the Occupational Training Center's first priority. City Lights heard from a former drug addict, who, ironically, was college-educated and raised by wonderful parents, about the second chance he'd received from God through City of Refuge. He now works as the youth pastor for City of Refuge's church programs, and spoke with great emotion about the potential that lies in the OTC's vision. Getting just a small group of people off the streets and in a positive, redemptive environment could transform not just those individuals, but an entire community. Aaron Clark, whose official title with the training center is "Human Resources Manager," will work one-on-one with candidates to see that they succeed. Whether individuals need to overcome drug and alcohol abuse, a difficult family situation, or other adversities, Clark is determined to help these people break the cycle of hopelessness and realize success through the Occupational Training Center's programs.
With the help of the strong model set by a similar, Seattle-based non-profit training center, Lynch and Clark have created a business plan that allows them to expand the Occupational Training Center's facility and employee development program slowly. Set up as a machinist's shop where small metal parts for cars, machinery, and other consumer goods are made, the OTC assumes a professional atmosphere. Right now, the machines that will be used within the training program are old, but as productivity picks up and as the training center assumes more partnerships, Lynch and Clark hope to acquire newer, state-of-the-art equipment. If all goes as planned, in two to five years the training center will employ 70 full-time employees and 60 trainees, working two shifts per day, six days a week, and earning competitive wages. Already, a mop-making shop has been set up within the Occupational Training Center, and two management trainees are overseeing distribution to stores such as ACE Hardware, as well as smaller, family-owned shops.
Lynch and Clark have a huge vision for what the Occupational Training Center will become. In order to execute that vision, however, they need to form productive partnerships with outside businesses. The speed and growth of the program depends on the local demand for the parts they produce. If you are inspired by this vision and are able to make a connection for them in any way, please contact Bobby Lynch or Aaron Clark at 404.564.7750, or email Towles Kintz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks go to Bobby Lynch and Aaron Clark for hosting our City Lights breakfast Tuesday morning and for providing the coffee and bagels for our meeting! Please join us in prayer for their wonderful enterprise.
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- AMEN, Inc. (2005)
- Atlanta American Red Cross (2005)
- Atlanta City Council (2015)
- Atlanta Community Food Bank (2006)
- Atlanta Development Authority (2005)
- Atlanta Housing (2006)
- Atlanta Intercultural Ministries (2005)
- Atlanta Mission (2011)
- Atlanta Youth Academy (2007)
- Beltline & Proposed Westside Park (2011)
- Buckhead Christian Ministry (2006)
- Buckhead Church (March 2016)
- Carter, with Bob Peterson (2017)
- Carver Bible College (2006)
- Carver Market (2015)
- Carver YMCA (2009)
- Charis Community Housing (2012)
- Childspring (2007)
- Club E (2015)
- City of Refuge
- Communitites in Schools (2005, 2007,2011)
- Covenant House (2004)
- Covenant House (2013)
- Create Your Dreams (2005)
- David Allman and Friends (2004)
- Dream Center (2015)
- Families First (2006)
- FCS Urban Ministries
- Fort McPherson (2013)
- Frazer Center (2012)
- Jars of Clay Outreach (2006)
- Georgia Student Leadership Forum
- Good Samaritan Health Center (2005)
- Grady Health Foundation (2014)
- How People Grow (2012)
- Justice (2012)
- L.E.A.D. (2015)
- The Leaders Lyceum
- Life Lessons (2006)
- Mary Mac's (2009)
- MedShare International (2004)
- My Sister's House (2016)
- PawKids (2016)
- Purpose Built Schools (2016)
- SafeHouse Outreach (2005)
- Saint Vincent de Paul (2015)
- Sears Building Becoming Ponce City Market (2012)
- Theatrical Outfit (2011)
- Walton Westside (2014)