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2019 march update: spring break

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Spring Break!

Dear CGM friends and family,

 Our students just got back from Spring Break. Even though our office was closed for the week, that didn't mean staff weren't out spending time with our students. We took high school students that were on the A/B honor roll to Orange Beach for the week. One young woman saw the beach for the first time in her life. Another student found the joy of humility while being schooled on the basketball court (to his chagrin, by shorter, older women). He also discovered the sensitivity of the body when you put it in motion in an amusement park ride (he was so confident at first, and so sick with nausea afterward!).

Locally, staffers took small groups to places like Rockin' Jump; they had sleepovers and swimming pool events and went out to eat. One young woman spent 8 hours dress shopping with one of our staff. Some middle school boys got to attend a civil rights celebration breakfast presented by national Greek-letter fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.

We had all these interactions and more on a week when the office was closed... And we couldn't be here doing any of this without your support. You provide us the means to help change the landscape of Montgomery and beyond. Not because you help us beat the odds for these students, but because you help in CHANGING THE ODDS for the students in our community.

Thank you for your continued support, whether financially or in volunteering, and your earnest prayers. Though the pendulum of life swings often between valleys of tears and mountain tops of laughter, our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ continues, and in no small part to your faithfulness towards us.

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Summer Camp is soon upon us! 

The 2019 Summer Camp is coming up and we are expecting many children in attendance. For over eight weeks we will be able to invest wholeheartedly in these children. Our staff and interns will be able to work on academics with them, share the gospel through bible studies, build lasting relationships, and honestly just HAVE FUN some days!

CGM's Summer Camp is vital in keeping so many children off the streets and among the influence of positive role models like our staff and college interns. Without the structure, stability, and loving influence provided in the Summer Camp, many of the children would be on their own throughout the day and left to occupy and fend for themselves.

The cost of a child attending our camp is $500.

Would you consider donating to our Summer Camp Program? Click the Donate Now button below and select Summer Camp as the fund to apply your donation towards.

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.

the mercy house grand opening

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Thanks to the initiatives and partnership of Common Ground Montgomery, the Mercy House has launched into a new 501(c)3 nonprofit ministry continuing to focus on the holistic transformation of the Washington Park Community.

The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce held a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, October 2, 2018.

Open every day, this ministry houses a food pantry and a clothes closet to serve people in need. Through the food pantry, TMH able to serve about 50 families each week with emergency food needs. Daily, TMH serves hot meals to both the elderly and homeless people in our community.

TMH will soon include the Pathway House (John 3:16). The Pathway House was designed to be a multifaceted building that will house programs to meet many of the needs of impoverished people. It will be an adult education center during the week which will include parenting classes, GED classes, financial literacy classes, word-processing and basic computer skills, interviewing techniques, and resume writing. They will also teach how to dress for success in the work place. It will become a tutoring center for children that are not in any other structured programs in the community. On Sundays, the Pathway House will be Sunday school classrooms.

TMH’s desires are, through teaching, to elevate people from poor behaviors, bad practices, life circumstances beyond their control, and generational bondage to the plan that God has for their lives.

For more information, call Ken Austin at The Mercy House: (334) 676-3040. 

Mailing address

Mercy House 
P.O. Box 10035
Montgomery, AL 36108

Physical address

Mercy House
2412 Council Street
Montgomery, AL 36108

2:11 - a study on holiness

Formerly known as the “Purity Study”, volunteer Nicole King is back after a hiatus to lead this optional study program open to our students.

Nicole King

Nicole King

From Nicole:

I have always felt an overwhelming calling to evangelize and disciple women and children since the 1999 and early 2000’s when I first came into the faith. To see both rooted and grounded in the word of God and empowered in who God has always created them to be will forever be one of my purposes in life. In 2009, I began an annual bible study for the girls in the Common Ground Montgomery after school program; the focus of the study was to educate and encourage girls in abstinence and give them a biblical view of sex. As the years progressed, we added young boys in our program and I began to focus on the area of holiness as a whole. The Hebrew word qodesh, translated “holiness,” comes from a couple of root meanings: “apart” or “separateness.

It is important in ministry that holiness be the background behind ALL that we teach. It was important to me that the children in our program/community be reminded of WHO God is, WHY he created them, WHAT was the gospel, and HOW all of this provokes one to a life of discernment that leads them to being “set apart” in all areas. Each 8-week study ended with a special neighborhood formal ball where the children, along with their parents, would gather to celebrate not only the completion of the Bible study, but we would honor a special couple from the community who had been an example of hope, love, faithfulness, and commitment. This bible study/community gathering has been on pause for the last 4 years —- the sabbatical ends this spring. 

I would like to introduce to you --2:11. (Formally called our Purity Study.) 

The name 2:11 comes from Titus 2:11-14 that says : 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

It's important for me to remind all those involved (as well as remind myself) that we grow through holiness through the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul teaches us that the gospel is not only the Cross (which is important) but it's also the incarnation, the sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, and the reign and return of Jesus Christ. It is very important that we see, understand, and teach the kids in our community/program to appreciate the totality of the gospel message. If this does not happen, we will be tempted to use Jesus' suffering to motivate obedience from our kids.

(In other words, we will be tempted to try and guilt others and ourselves into submission by feeling sorry for what Jesus had to go through, turning him into a victim instead of a seeing him as a VICTOR, as I once heard a mentor say.)

Seeing Jesus and all of his work is the only thing that is strong enough to transform us and the children we minister to. I intend to instruct my volunteer teachers on how to weave this all throughout this study.

2012 Purity Ball

2012 Purity Ball

I’m sending this message out for a couple of reasons.

1) I would like to invite you to join me in praying over this study and our Washington Park community. Prayer plays a huge role in our fight against Satan and we will not be able to do what we do without it. 

2) I would like to ask you to consider being a donor. We are in the phase of trying to purchase the curriculum for our elementary/middle school boys and girls. Over the years it has been the generosity of church family and friends that have helped us equip our children with what they need. We are grateful.

The curriculum kits can be purchased here : 

Girls: (25)

Boys (30)

All tuxedo’d up for the ball!

All tuxedo’d up for the ball!

If you would like to just give through CGM directly for me to purchase kits, you can give through the website: Click general donation and be sure to add a note where it asks for T-shirt size to specify that you are giving towards the "2:11 Purity Study".

If you have any questions, or would like to volunteer as a teacher during this study, email me: 

The 2:11 Study is scheduled to take place on Wednesdays from February 6, 2019, to April 3, 2019.

Volunteer teacher training will be January 12, 2019.