A Celebration of Arts, Sports and the History of African Americans


February 24th – 26th, more than 300 residents of Atlanta’s Pittsburgh Community participated in a celebration of African-American arts, music, food, sports, and more at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Atlanta.

The weekend- long celebration kicked off with an awards luncheon honoring NBA legend Dale Ellis, and local community volunteer/radio personality Carol Blackmon with The Center’s Lifetime Achievement and Community Service Awards respectively.

Following the luncheon, The Center opened its doors and arms to the community as volunteers and staff from King of Hoops®, Atlanta Xplosion Football Team and Atlanta Battelcats Basketball Team served over 160 meals to local homeless men and women.

Saturday festivities included a day of music and spoken word by local African American artists, and a Pro-Amateur Basketball Tournament sponsored by Nike Inc. and King of Hoops.  Admission to the Basketball Tournament was free with two canned-good donations.  Over 300 canned goods were donated to The Center for its food pantry.

For the grand-finale, The Center commissioned local artists from The Kaleidoscope Outreach Project to sketch a mural and invited local children to paint-in the artists’ sketch.  The mural, entitled “Planting Seeds For the Future”, features George Washington Carver planting seeds in a garden and those seeds are growing into children.  The mural will be placed in the Center’s Community Garden in the next two weeks.

” The purpose of the weekend was to highlight key achievements from African American that have paved the way for many of the adults and children in this community, and re-introduce Atlanta to the variety of programs we offer,” says Captain Sandra Pawar, Commanding Officer of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

According to Pawar, recognizing Dale Ellis and hosting the Basketball Tournament was in celebration of the contributions African-Americans have made to sports, and engage the community in the many sports programs at The Center.  Similarly, honoring Carol Blackman and featuring local musicians was in recognition of African-Americans contribution to music and arts and in hopes of engaging more local men and women and children in similar programs at The Center.


Homeless Join Running Program

On her daily runs, Anne Mahlum jogged past a homeless shelter in Philadelphia. Over time, Mahlum developed a friendly rapport with some of the shelter’s residents who used to stand on the corner.  She decided to reach out to the executive director encouraging him to allow the men join her on her runs. She bought running shoes and clothes for nine men and Back on My Feet was launched in 2007.

Back on My Feet came to Atlanta last November in hopes to improve the lives of Atlanta’s homeless population through running. Currently, there are three teams of 15 from Trinity House-Big Bethel, The Gateway Center, and The Salvation Army.

“Through running, we are aiming to improve self-esteem, improve discipline, building confidence, and a sense of consistency” said Program Director Tiffany Brennaman. “With our volunteers and the members’ commitment, we are aiming to change the perception of homelessness and really help these men move their lives forward.”

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, volunteers and the teams run in each facility’s Downtown Atlanta  location as a part of the men’s commitment to the Back on My Feet program. On Saturdays, all groups run together at The Salvation Army Red Shield Services Shelter.

The program demands 90 percent attendance from the participants. In addition to running, the program awards each member a scholarship that is directly paid from Back on My Feet toward debts  the members may owe. The nonprofit also partners with corporations to provide the participants with resources such as job readiness and financial literacy classes. The program gives the participants four to six months to become fully sufficient, gainfully employed, and in their own housing.

“This does not happen without the volunteers,” said John Hannula, executive director of Trinity Community Ministries. “The support from the community has a true impact on these men.”

Avien Reese, who joined the program in December, credits the organization for his pursuit of a positive change. “I never thought running would make such a difference to me. This has taught me to finish things once I start them, and the community support means everything,” he shared. Reese has finished three 5Ks and will start training for his first half-marathon.

Article Written by Devika Rao AJC