Summit Recap: February 15 with the Grove Park Foundation

Westside Future Fund returned February 15 with a full program and lots of great news to share for its third Transform Westside Summit of 2019.

With a successful Super Bowl LIII under its belt, the Westside community and the city of Atlanta are shifting its focus to the next main event – the much-anticipated Beloved Benefit, which was the underlying theme of the Summit program.

Plans for the inaugural event were originally announced at WFF’s October 5 Transform Westside Summit by host organizations
Chick-fil-A® Foundation and Arthur Blank’s AMB Group. The Benefit is scheduled for March 21 and will be hosted on the field of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Its purpose: to raise visibility for and celebrate the outstanding work underway to revitalize the historic Westside of Atlanta.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event will directly benefit area nonprofits At-Promise Youth & Community Center, City of Refuge, Grove Park Foundation, Westside Future Fund and Westside Works.

Leading up to the event, Westside Future Fund will host each of the beneficiaries as a featured presenter at the Transform Westside Summits. Grove Park Foundation had the honor of being the first to have the Summit spotlight, with its presentation led by its executive director Debra Edelson.

A Journey of Growth in Grove Park

Edelson began with a history of the organization.

The Grove Park Foundation grew out of the efforts to connect and restore several historic Westside neighborhoods along Proctor Creek, which had suffered from decades of disinvestment and environmental degradation. In 2015, the Emerald Corridor Foundation opened its doors in the Grove Park neighborhood and began working with public, private and community partners to address quality of life issues surrounding the creek.

In August 2017, Grove Park Foundation joined the Purpose Built Communities Network, which includes similar neighborhood revitalization efforts in cities across the country using the holistic Purpose Built Model.

Building Communities with Purpose: Healthy, Equitable and Thriving

Edelson was joined on stage by a panel of colleagues, neighborhood residents and community leaders who, together, illustrated the Purpose Built model in action, marked by three key areas: mixed-income housing, education and a culture of wellness.

Within each area, the panelists raised the challenges being faced as well as Grove Park Foundation’s responses to the challenges.

One of the more urgent and critical matters: housing.

Panelist Tommie Mathis, a resident, summed up one of the greatest housing obstacles: “We want to stay in our homes,” the legacy resident said candidly.

And help residents stay in their homes is what Grove Park Foundation endeavors to do.

“We are intentionally focused on stabilization…and bringing resources into the community,” said Freddie Stevens, housing director for the Foundation.

A major contributing factor to the threat of residents not being able to stay in the community as redevelopment occurs is the low area median income, which for Grove Park is in the range of $22,000-$25K annually.

Stevens shared one example of their response to this issue: the organization’s recent approval for a low-income tax credit project that will allow them to bring on a new 110-unit, mixed-income, multi-family housing development that will be 80% affordable.

“As the community quarterback, we are tasked with being able to meet the needs of the community,” said Tarnace Watkins, director of economic development for the Grove Park Foundation, who noted being able to do this by listening to the residents and being very clear about their pain points.

“No one wanted a hand-out, they wanted a hand up,” said Watkins, reflecting residents’ desires. The Foundation supports this through increased education, including focusing on economic empowerment.

“Financial literacy is imperative,” added Dr. Charles Harper, Grove Park Foundation board member who serves as a liaison between the organization and the community. “Issues of equity are so important. Issues of inequity have almost destroyed the community. We had to find a mechanism to teach and educate people, especially our legacy residents. We want them to be able to make informed, educated decisions about whether or not they want to remain in Grove Park. This education has been empowering to our residents.”

The third and final area was a culture of wellness, which included attention to top community health concerns and barriers to improving health. This area also included the Foundation’s focus on arts and culture, highlighted by the restoration of the Grove Theatre, a former movie house now being transformed into a community hub for the arts.

To learn more about the Grove Park Foundation, visit

Additional Summit Highlights: 

  • The Azalea City Links presented Westside Future Fund with a gift for $20,000 to support the cradle-to-career education strategy at Hollis Innovation Academy!
  • AT&T announced the film “Where I’m From” as the winner of the Westside Storytelling Competition! Check out the film here.

To watch the video of the full Summit presentation, click below.

The Summit’s morning devotion was given by Tarnace Watkins, Sr., director of economic development of the Grove Park Foundation and executive pastor at Paradise Missionary Baptist Church.