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2018 end of the year letter

Bryan Kelly, Founder and Executive Director

Bryan Kelly, Founder and Executive Director

I am deeply grateful to report that 2018 has been a great year at Common Ground Montgomery. We understand that there are so many wonderful nonprofits that are worthy of your investment, but we are thankful you have chosen us. Your support allows us to transform lives, families, and our community.

Over this past year, while I focused on expanding our efforts to other areas beyond Montgomery’s westside, Justin Hampton served as our local director and worked to make us more effective in our mission.

Recently, he felt a calling to devote his efforts towards the renewal of Montgomery’s Public School system. We are extremely grateful to Justin and look forward to seeing his future impact on our kids’ educational development as he works with the Montgomery Education Foundation. I have stepped back into the executive director role and I am excited to see God continue to use us for the transformation of our city.

This last year we established a new sending and training mechanism, Common Ground Alabama, in Birmingham. We helped establish our first plant, Common Ground Shoals, that is now seeing wonderful things happen in Florence, Alabama. We are on the verge of helping start a new kids camp in Montgomery’s southside (Camp Tenetke). This endeavor will not only provide an affordable camp and developmental experience for underprivileged youth, but will also focus on bringing kids together from all walks of life. Additionally, the Mercy House officially launched in October (as its own 501(c)3 non-profit) to help meet the needs of many through a daily presence that helps homeless families, latch key kids, and families struggling to make ends meet.

We are continuing to see the grace of God shared and shown in our midst, and that’s why I’ve included Quanda’s story from how she went from a parent with kids in our program to working at CGM.

Your giving has allowed us to put full-time people in a distressed community who continually show up and are present in a chaotic context. As Quanda has expressed so well, God loves to be present to us through people. He is using your generosity to show His love.

We are beyond thankful for your love and support because we couldn’t be here without it. Would you please consider a year-end gift and commit to a recurring monthly donation in 2019? Thank your for your prayerful consideration to help change Montgomery and beyond!

meet quanda brown

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“I am a single parent that didn’t want my kids (a 12th-grader, 8th-grader, 6th-grader, and 3rd-grade twins) roaming the streets. CGM was a way for my kids to have a safe experience in the community. I wanted positive role models in a good environment for my kids. The after school program really helped me out because I was working two jobs and it helped them have somewhere to go until I could get home later in the evening.”

“I lived in Gibbs Village for five years with my kids. I saw a guy shot on my porch. And that does something to you...”

“I didn’t want my kids to be out and see that type of stuff. I felt like I had to keep them inside all the time. I was scared for their lives and the impact of all the bad stuff that can happen. So, I found a place that was good for them; a safe place.”

“That can’t be taken for granted. That would have been enough for me. But, then I saw all the amazing adults up here, real role models and caring adults who loved my kids and who helped them every day.”

CGM helped her combat the effects of some of the community trauma that happens during after school hours when so many kids are unsupervised and under the influence of destructive people. But personal trauma is what also brought Quanda to CGM.

The more Quanda came to pick her kids up and interact with the staff and volunteers, the more she experienced the love and grace of God as they were shown to her and her kids. And other kids that recognized her would flock to her as she spent more and more time around CGM. She felt that the safe, loving, non-judgmental environment and relationships were not only drawing her to a place of connection, honesty, and healing that she couldn’t yet put words to, but she began to have the same heart to see those same things happen for the girls in the program.

She began volunteering 15 hours a week to lead a third grade class. She started sharing her life and story with the middle school and high school girls. She was so effective that we hired her part-time at first, and then eventually full-time. Her connection to the kids and the gracious environment she was participating in led her one day, to the surprise of all the staff and kids (and Quanda herself), to share long term betrayals and traumas including a long absent father that once told her, when she finally tracked him down: “I don’t have any money.”

She replied, “I don’t want any money, I just want to know why you don’t love me.”

He had no answer.

She internalized a lot pain for most of her life. Those years of carrying the hidden pain, levels of shame, and the loss of self-love, identity, and innocence had taken a toll in her life in ways she didn’t even understand. She made an incredibly bold choice to share her story with the girls at CGM.

At least three things happened to her.

Contrary to all her fears in life for so long, her new friends and family at CGM drew closer to her in love and support and not away. She also began to find personal healing and started the grief process for all that had been stolen from her, and for the hurtful choices she made for many years as a hurt person. And lastly, the girls began to come to her and open up about their own devastating experiences.

Safe space, honest intimacy, love and acceptance, and shared pain and weakness have begun to create a deeper environment of connection and a process of healing. It has overflowed into mothers of the children as well, as Quanda has chosen to engage them with her presence and story.

God is showing so much sideways grace through this incredible woman.

“Not having a father involved in my life and other childhood pain led to a place of me looking for many years for the wrong type of men to make up for it. You can’t find healing like that, only more pain.”

She wants the girls and other moms to stop that cycle as well.

Quanda has started a track to be trained to lead our lower school program and to be a mentor-leader to our older girls. She is an amazing person and has had an impact on all of us.

Thank you so much for helping support us to help create the space and platform for leaders like Quanda to be transformed and to be instruments of love and transformation for others.