Westside Community Shares Hopes and Holiday Wishes

As we enter this season of thanksgiving, we asked members of the Westside community to share what they were thankful for this holiday season, how they express their gratitude through service and their hopes and wishes for the Westside for the coming new year!


Sylvia Russell, Hollis Innovation Academy GO-Team Member and Westside Future Fund Board Member

  • Why do you care about the Westside? I care about the Westside because I believe in an Atlanta that ensures all of our neighborhoods have access to a quality education. And affordable housing in safe neighborhoods. Period. No ifs, ands or buts.
  • How do you give back to the community? I give back by giving my time, energy and support towards education. I believe a quality education, from cradle to career, provides the best route to breaking the poverty cycle.
  • What are you grateful for this holiday season? I am so grateful for family, friends, good health and a blessed life. Oh and, of course, yummy turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving.

    Russell (left) pictured with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen at the partnership announcement between Westside Future Fund, Hollis Innovation Academy and APS.


Elita Cosby, Legacy Resident and Westside Neighborhoods Beautification Program Graduate

  • Why do you care about the Westside? I’ve been living on the Westside all of my life. Many of my family and friends live in the neighborhood.
  • How do you give back to the community? Integrity and Westside Works have inspired me to give back to the neighborhood by keeping it safe and clean. I’d also like to help my friends transform their lives and get them back into a safe community where there are jobs and affordable housing. That’s how I would like to give back.
  • What are you grateful for this holiday season? I am grateful for my family, friends, loved ones and neighbors and for the Westside Neighborhoods Beautification program. Because of the program, I’m blessed to have a job doing construction demolition. I’m also grateful for PwC for funding the program. We really appreciate all they did for us this year.


Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools, a partner organization of the Westside Volunteer Corps

Jo Kirchner (left) pictured with Westside Future Fund Executive Director John Ahmann at a recent Westside Volunteer Corps service project.
  • Why do you care about the Westside? Thirty-five years ago, the first Primrose school opened in an Atlanta suburb, and today we’ve grown to 39 schools in metro Atlanta and more than 350 schools across the country. Supporting the Westside community is important to me and to Primrose because Atlanta is our home. We care about all of the families who live here and want them to thrive.
  • How do you give back? I founded the Primrose Children’s Foundation® more than 20 years ago so our Primrose community could help children and families in need. Last year, we raised more than $720,000 to help others. Over the years, it has been a joy to partner with and see the positive impact of initiatives like the Westside Future Fund’s Westside Volunteer Corps, the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club, and organizations like GEEARS, Reach Out and Read and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Through the Westside Volunteer Corps’ partnership with Primrose Schools, more than 300 snack packs and hygiene kits will be delivered to three historic Westside schools this season.
  • What are you grateful for this holiday season? I am grateful for the opportunity to help empower the potential of every child, including the children in the Westside community. At Primrose, we believe who children become is as important as what they know. Through our emphasis on nurturing good character, children in our schools are engaged in giving and learning the importance of making a difference in the lives of others at a very young age. I’m thankful to be able to help shape the next generation and instill values like kindness, compassion and generosity that will stay with them for life.


Makeda Johnson, Legacy Resident, Founder of Sisters Action Team and co-founder of the Historic Westside News

  • Why do you care about the Westside? It has been my home of choice for nearly three decades. It has a rich historical legacy and my neighbors are wonderful. I believe that the media and others have a misconception of who we are we. We are the resilient beloved community that thrives no matter what.
  • How do you give back? I give back through my time and resources as an artist, ordained minister and community advocate. I founded the Sisters Action Team, a community-based organization created to nurture the development of the human spirit, physically, emotionally and economically, and to advocate for the creation of the inclusive, holistic vision of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Beloved Community.”
  • What are you grateful for this holiday season? The opportunity to embrace my family and neighbors and for the spirit of resilience that surrounds us daily. It is a divine gift.

Lyric McGhee, Legacy Resident, Raising Expectations Graduate and Georgia State University Senior 

  • Why do you care about the Westside? I grew up on the Westside, specifically the Vine City area, and transitioned to the Ashby area when I attended Booker T. Washington Early College High School.In an unexplainable way, I love the Westside. I love the people. I love the history. Many of my family members and friends currently stay on the Westside. It’s very familiar to me, and I have had some of my greatest memories in Vine City and off White House Drive at Washington High School. People in the Westside Community have so much history, so many memories, many of the same memories I have. I care about my memories, my good and bad times living on the Westside. They made me who I am today and have given me knowledge, hope, and aspirations for my future. I care about those things as a person who has lived on the Westside, people in the community share those same beliefs, which is why I care about the Westside Community.
  • How do you give back? I grew up going to Raising Expectations. I attended the after-school program for 10 years. When I started high school, I was still a student, but I volunteered to serve as a mentor and tutor to the younger students. That was the first time I started giving back to the community.Through my current internship with the Westside Future Fund, I created a program called the Westside Future Fund F.A.M.I.L.Y (Future Achievers Making a difference In Living on Your Westside).The WFF FAMILY is a group of my peers who live on the Westside and go into the community to inform residents about opportunities and information that would benefit them now and in the future. We recently finished a project in the Ashview Heights area informing long-time homeowners about the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund. We want to keep the community’s history, culture and people while revitalizing it to be beautiful like it once was.Upon my graduation from Georgia State University in 2019, I hope to be able to use my knowledge and expertise working on the Westside to stay involved in the community sphere and continue work that I’m passionate about.
  • What are you grateful for this holiday season?  This holiday season, I am grateful to have the opportunity to take part in something I am passionate about, which is giving back to the community.Also, I am thankful for having support in this opportunity from Raising Expectations and Westside Future Fund. Raising Expectations provided training to members of the WFF FAMILY program. I am grateful that I could help in the prevention of others being removed from history, living on the Westside.Throughout life I have constantly fought in the battle to stay on the Westside, a community I hold dear to my heart. Although I am unable to stay on the Westside due to my current circumstances, I cherish the fact that I can prevent something like this from happening to others who have grown with the Westside community.