Reed, Atlanta businesses jumpstart fundraising for city aid group

An Atlanta organization that helps people who have fallen through the cracks find jobs and provides employment training got a big financial boost Wednesday.

The city of Atlanta, Chick-fil-A and Coca-Cola announced a $7.5 million donation to City of Refuge, a westside organization working in some of the city’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods, including Vine City and English Avenue.

“This is not just an economic issue, this is not a PR issue,” Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy said during a ceremony celebrating the gift. “This is a human life issue.”

Over the past few years, local business and government leaders have increasingly focused on reducing poverty in West Atlanta, especially the areas around the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Other groups, such as Westside Future Fund and Westside Works, also are receiving millions in financial aid to address homelessness, unemployment and other issues.

Terry Tucker, chief strategy officer for City of Refuge, said the funding will allow the organization to almost double those it helps annually, from 1,300 people a year to about 2,500 people.

The organization, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, is trying to raise about $25.5 million overall to construct a building where it plans to teach auto technology, retail, the culinary arts, landscaping and computer coding.

“We’re really excited to give people in our community the opportunity to be self-sustainable,” City of Hope CEO Bruce Deel said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said City of Refuge is playing a key role in efforts to solve the challenges faced by those struggling financially or with housing.

“When you think of all of the ills that we have been focusing in terms of equality and fairness in our community, the City of Refuge is actually doing something about those ills,” Reed told ceremony attendees.

Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said the company’s donation to City of Hope is part of its ongoing effort to empower women around the world. Coke is targeting 500 women and 200 men for training in its 5by20 program, which focuses on training, financial support and jobs in the Coke system, especially among women entrepreneurs.

“(City of Hope) is the best example of the ‘golden triangle,’” Kent said. “The ‘golden triangle’ is government, business and civil society coming together to help improve communities. Healthy communities equal healthy business, it’s that simple.”

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