In inner city Atlanta, parents on a tight budget have the opportunity to find toys and gifts for their children without feeling like a charity case this Christmas.
A sale called “Pride for Parents” takes place every year at the South Atlanta Marketplace, a ministry of FCS Community Economic Development.
Inside the marketplace are rows of toys, bikes, soccer balls, games and much more for children of all ages. Everything is marked at half their retail price.
Parents can come into the store and shop for Christmas presents for their children. Tanisha Corporal, a local Atlanta mom, talked about her experience at the store on a video from the Pride for Parents website. She said she moved to the area two years ago and around that time was laid off from her job.
During the Christmas season she was worried about how she was going to provide for her son on a fixed income. She heard about the marketplace and went to check it out. That year she bought many gifts at the store for her son, and said that without it, she wouldn’t have been able to provide for him like in years past.
The store relies on donations of new and gently used toys and gifts from those in the community.
Jeff Delp, director of Community Economic Development, said on a video, “Every gift that we receive turns into three gifts for south Atlanta. It’s the gift for a child, the gift of pride for a parent knowing that they provided for their children, and it’s the gift of a job for someone working in the Marketplace.”
Giving parents dignity is the main push behind the program.
Bob Lupton, founder and president of FCS Urban Ministries, said that early on in the ministry they had an Adopt-a-Family program. Families would go shopping and bring toys to needy families in their community.
Lupton said it gave joy to many people, but it wasn’t until he moved to the inner city with his family that he began to see something he hadn’t noticed before. The children were always very excited when the toys were dropped off, and the moms gracious but subdued. But, Lupton said, the one thing that really hit him was that if a dad was in the home when the toys were dropped off, he would just disappear.
He said he realized that “in front of their own children, in their own homes, fathers were being exposed for their inability to provide. They were being humiliated in front of their own families.”
So the following year, Lupton made the decision to have all the toys brought into the South Atlanta Marketplace, and invited families to shop there instead. He said the idea really took off.
“What we found was, parents would rather work and pay for the toys that would bring joy to their kids on Christmas, much more so than standing in the free toy line with their proof of poverty.”
The program was initially called “Dignity for Dads,” but has matured into what is now Pride for Parents. The South Atlanta Marketplace, which houses Pride for Parents, is one of three programs run by FCS Community Economic Development. Community Grounds coffee shop and the South Atlanta bike shop are the other two initiatives that make up the Focused Community Strategies Urban Ministries.
FCS Urban Ministries was founded by Lupton in 1976. Since then, their website says, they have grown to embrace “community development organization, and strategic concepts that place a framework around urban development in order to foster communities that are real, sustainable, even restorative.”
They have been a part of inner city Atlanta for 30 years and emphasize a ministry strategy focused both on social and spiritual vitality, as well as economic viability.