Local Volunteers Answer Call for More Public Life with Their Own Block Party
"Groovin' Down in Midtown" Community Event Takes Place August 10 from 5-8pm
By BRIAN CARR
Motivated by Midtown Alliance's appeal for other groups to produce community events in publicly-accessible spaces, a group of enthusiastic volunteers who attend the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is organizing a community block party that you won't want to miss. The origin story of the August 10th event - titled “Groovin’ Down in Midtown” - captures the very best of the community spirit that shines bright in the heart of our city. And it starts with the Church’s work to define its future.
Church Master Plan Envisions a “Front Porch” for Midtown
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer has been a part of the fabric of Midtown since it relocated here from downtown Atlanta in 1937. From the corner of Peachtree and 4th Streets, the church has seen Midtown change over the years. Now, the congregation is focused on its long-term future, engaging in a master planning process that examines the relationship between the Church’s physical footprint, the land it occupies, its members, the surrounding community, and how to connect all of these in a rapidly changing part of the city.
According to Janet Preston, one of the core volunteers at Redeemer who’s helping to lead the event, one desired outcome from the Church’s master plan is to create synergies with neighbors and create what she described as a “front porch” for Midtown at Peachtree and 4th Streets, a place that is welcoming and inclusive
Inspired by Public Life Action Plan to Get Involved
“Through this master planning effort, we realized early on that we need to expand our participation in Midtown,” Preston said.
And Midtown Alliance’s work on convening stakeholders to help inform the district’s Public Life Action Plan offered the Church a bigger opportunity to get involved and create relationships. The district-wide initiative has looked holistically at design and programming strategies to get people together in publicly-accessible spaces for experiences that strengthen Midtown’s appeal as a destination. At one of these stakeholder meetings, Preston’s friend and fellow Redeemer member Sally Rosser raised her hand and offered to create something.
“Sally loves people, and gathering them for a focused purpose gives her joy,” Preston said. “And that joy is contagious.”
Rosser helped Redeemer submit a pitch for seed funding and support via Midtown Alliance’s (Ad)venture Capital program. The program was set up to become a catalyst for others in the community to take up the mantle of bringing more activities and events to bear, and create a multiplier effect to complement Midtown Alliance’s public events and programming. Redeemer’s pitch to host a community block party was chosen for support and is now among the first to roll forward via the (Ad)venture Capital program.
What You Can Expect at the Block Party
“We are creating something very new,” Preston said. “We've done a live nativity, we've done a living Last Supper, but we've never taken on something like a block party.”
“Groovin’ Down in Midtown” will take place on Thursday, August 10th from 5-8pm at Peachtree and 4th Streets. The event will feature live music, food trucks, drinks, local vendors, and family activities.
One of the block party's central themes is connecting neighbors to volunteer opportunities in the area, such as Redeemer's food ministry which has been feeding food vulnerable men and women since 1982. Attendees can also hear from other non-profits and get involved in the issues they care about. And the event will offer information to help people living and working in Midtown with access to legal, counseling, ad other services.
“We’re putting together the building blocks to strengthen our Midtown community,” Preston said, adding that she hopes this can become an annual event.
So, what's behind the 1970s theme?
“We've seen all the changes in Midtown throughout the years,” she said. “And we decided that one of the more defining decades was the '70s, where Midtown really was a cultural base for many of the changes in Atlanta. And we decided that that was a concept and a theme that could bring joy and also showcase how the community has evolved since then.”
Volunteer Effort Strengthens Bonds
Preston runs a law practice, and her collaborators at Redeemer all have other obligations. But while they’re all busy people, Preston can see this project has brought energy to her congregation and community. She indicated that dozens of people both within the congregation and from the neighborhood have signed up to assist with putting on the event, including St. Mark's and corporate neighbors among others.
Preston added that Midtown Alliance staff have been helpful with drawing the roadmap for the Redeemer crew of volunteer event organizers to follow, providing insight into how to secure a permit from the City, connecting Redeemer to other partners and even pitching in with event marketing support.
“I feel like we have built a very groovy team,” Preston said. “We see each other at church on Sunday, but we also have a weekly action meeting to make sure that the event is moving forward. And that kind of activity really brings people together in fellowship and fun.”
Preston also believes that other groups in the community can take on something comparable to what Redeemer is doing with the “Groovin’ Down in Midtown” event and succeed.
“What we’re doing is transferable for others to pick up and do,” she said. “What you need is a very focused lead team that can divide up tasks. And the other piece you need is a positive and constructive working relationship with Midtown Alliance.”