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Auburn Gresham Gives Back

It’s only logical that during the holidays our trusted community organizations and established businesses give back to the community that gives so much to them during the year. Without our tax dollars, donations, or patronage our local not-for-profits and businesses wouldn’t be able to succeed. The burden of responsibility and response-ability flows both ways. As customers, clients, constituents, and consumers should feel compelled to support our local business district. We should shop in our neighborhoods and invest in our communities. African Americans pump over a TRILLION dollars into the US economy. And there's nothing wrong with that, but we should expect - no, demand, a return on that investment. That means we should demand that our local business districts, at the very minimum, funnel some of those dollars back into our communities by financially supporting the programs, events, activities, and projects that do us the most good and provide us with the most services. Let me state it more clearly - NO business in our community should operate without feeling obligated give back and support or create events that matter to and benefit us. When we mutually and reciprocally support each other - we grow. Period.

So Auburn Gresham residents – I urge you to support our business community by keeping the majority of your dollars local. In return, I expect the business community to be invested in the community and to funnel resources back through goods, services, programs, and donations. It is foolish for us to think that we can do the same unproductive things over and over again and expect different results. Let’s be different and see what we can accomplish - together. Two community businesses (a retail and a not-for-profit) show us how this successful partnership can be done.

I would like to highlight two businesses that consistently show a tremendous amount of community support, love, and respect whenever and wherever possible. I ask you to support them in whatever way you can (volunteering, donating, or purchasing goods and services). My hope is that next year I won't have enough space to highlight all the businesses giving back because there will be too many!


John Meyer, Manager

BJ’s Market and Bakery had a spectacular holiday celebration on Wednesday, December 22, 2010. They treated the public to free, gourmet, BJs-style Christmas Dinners with all the trimmings. The options were plenty and mouthwatering: braised country beef ribs, sweet cornbread stuffing, honey glazed ham, luscious macaroni and cheese, savory greens, buttery mashed potatoes, and perfectly seasoned roasted vegetables.

Judging by the long line of people waiting out in the cold to get a plate – this was exactly what the public was hoping for. The crowds, both inside and out, were is such good spirits – all smiles and laughter - that I had to stop taking pictures and start talking to some of them to get their stories.

photo by piashantee (Left: Gregory Galtney, 52; Center: Roderick Watkins, 46; Right: Frank Lemon, 69)

Gregory, Roderick, and Frank (whom I affectionately refer to as The Three Musketeers) heard about the community dinner via word of mouth at St. Sabina. They came simply because they were hungry (not homeless, not destitute). It's amazing how hunger is so prevalent in this country. We take for granted that just getting full, being full can be a daily challenge even if you aren't one of society's "downtrodden untouchables," specially if you aren't one of society's "downtrodden untouchables." Gregory said that they were appreciative of all that was being done for the community that day. The trio had all been working and all been laid off in the past 17 to 24 months. I asked them what they were doing now. “We hustle,” Frank said with all seriousness. “But it’s an honest hustle. When we worked we made honest money, and that’s the only kind we want. Now that we have to hustle for a living – we do an honest hustle.” When I asked what kinds of work they do and did, Frank said, pointedly, “If you’re looking we do it all - maintenance, dry wall, painting, sweeping. We just want to work.” I spent a few more minutes with these guys – liking them more and more as I listened to them. My final questions was how they liked the meal, and Gregory sat back with a satisfied look on his face and said, “This is way more than we thought it was gonna be. We expected a little something, but this. And the good thing about it is – you feel comfortable coming in here. It’s like – you feel welcomed. Nobody is looking down on you. You don’t feel embarrassed or anything. And the food is real good. It’s just like eating at Momma’s house.” What a wonderful feeling it gave me to hear that. And so I commend BJ’s for bringing Momma’s House to the people this year.  Gregory, Roderick, and Frank – thank you for allowing me to sit at your table this Christmas! I hope honest jobs and honest opportunities find you all in 2011.

Here's what others had to say about the BJ's Market & Bakery Community Dinner:

"This is a wonderful gesture to the community; I love what’s going on right now. This is very nice of Father Phleger." -Mijanau Scroggins, St. Sabina;     "I really liked it. I wish there was another muffin, they were really good." - Sierra 8;      "I think this a great opportunity for the less fortunate to have an opportunity to experience a taste of the holiday season."  - Leonilla;    "This is an excellent platform for veterans such as myself to come and eat, and speak with our elected officials who are currently present. I heard about this wonderful gesture from the St. Sabina church bulletin board, I almost did not come; I live in the veterans building on 74 and Loomis. This very wonderful and I am enjoying myself."- Babette Peyton. 

Click here to see highlights of this holiday celebration.


Delece Williams, Executive Director

I was standing at the bus stop on Ashland when I noticed some activity out of the corner of my eye. Several young men in white lab coats were coming in and out of a building that looked like the Kidz Korna headquarters. I didn’t know what was going on over there and decided to find out if something shady was happening. I caught the door as one young man was closing it and asked if  Delece Williams was in. She was. She came to the door and told me that the boys in white were her youth volunteers and they were helping her finish sorting the donations for the gift giveaway she was having on Thursday, December 23, 2010 from 12:00p to 4:00p. She invited me to come in and what I saw absolutely blew me away. Stacked from floor to ceiling, in some places, were row upon row and box upon box of every kind of toy you could think of. The office was divided into multiple stations – the toys were stacked according to age group, there was a section for school supplies and hundreds of book bags, and even a section for clothing that was donated for the event. It was like being at the North Pole on Christmas Eve watching the elves getting it done! Delece has been a mega force for youth advocacy in the community and it’s really no surprise that companies from as far away as New York heard her clarion call this Christmas and opened up their store houses to give. And give abundantly. After speaking briefly with Delece she invited me to come back the next day and see the turnout for myself.

photo by piashantee (Long line forming for the Kidz Korna Christmas Toy Giveaway)

When I arrived at 11:30a the next day there was already a crowd forming. And, let me tell you, it was cold. That showed me that in this tough economic time, people are willing to brave the elements in order for their little ones to have something to open on Christmas Day. I spent an hour or so taking pictures and interviewing people inside and outside the venue.


Delece’s husband, legendary DJ Farley Jack Master Funk, gave me the low down on the reason for the event and praised the donors for their outstanding community support. Channel 5 filmed the event and interviewed some of the little ones after they’d received their gifts. It was a wonderfully festive sight to behold. Each child was allowed to choose a toy, get a book bag with school supplies, and choose an outfit. The volunteers were colorful, loud, and boisterous – exactly what was needed to keep the crowd moving. Farley ‘Jack Master Funk’ played a mix of tunes to keep the crowd dancing and upbeat while they waited.

I spoke with the Johnson family while they were standing outside waiting to get in and picks gifts. When asked, everyone agreed unanymously that braving the cold weather and long, long lines was worth the wait. Mom, Keyetta Johnson, said this year was going to be a little more sparse for the kids as they were not getting 'a bunch' of presents this year. Keshawnda, her oldest daughter, chimed in, “We had a whole bunch last year!” When asked what the difference was between this year and last, Keyetta said the economy was a big factor. She just didn’t have the extra money to spend on more than one gift per child this year and she said that she was glad she found out about the Kidz Korna toy giveaway. She had not heard of the organization prior to this event.

Y'know, sometimes it takes a community organization, like Kidz Korna, to come in and fill in the gaps have when money or services don’t stretch as far as we want or need them to. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Just ask the hundreds and hundreds of people who lined up on a cold Chi-town morning to make Christmas a little brighter for their families.

THANK YOU for our wonderful community of businesses and organizations. I think we are unique in that we have businesses ready, able, and willing to do more and be more in the community than just places that take our money. A great deal of them are interested in finding ways to connect to people and families and help fill the needs around them. Those are the ones that deserve our dollars. HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Auburn Gresham. We’ll see you on the flip side of 2010 and let’s make it HAPPEN in 2011!

If you have positive stories, like this, of businesses doing good in the ‘hood – please sign up for the portal and share your stories with us. Don’t just look for other examples or read about other examples – BE an example.


Keywords: Auburn Gresham, BJ's Market and Bakery, Johnson Publishing Company, Saint Sabina Church, WVON Radio

Posted in Community Highlights