by Kimberly Parker
August 24, 2004
No, I didn’t get the date wrong! August 24, 2004 was my first day as a part-time employee of Central Outreach & Advocacy Center! Thirteen years ago! Who would have thought a new Columbia Theological Seminary graduate who was seeking a call in a parish would end up at Central OAC? I didn’t, and I also didn’t think I would be there very long, but after a few months, I was offered a full-time position and after a few more months, I knew that I had been called to the OAC. My parish was simply going to look a little different than the typical high, holy hour of 11 am on a Sunday morning.
During my thirteen years …
- I have worked under three different Executive Directors.
- The OAC Board has had six different Chairs.
- Two different Leadership Atlanta teams have completed projects for the OAC.
- The Main Frame Job Readiness Program was created.
- Three strategic plans have guided the programs and services.
- The first Development Director was hired.
- The first Director of Public Policy Advocacy was hired.
- The budget has been sustainable and the budget has been in crisis.
- Two annual fundraisers have been established: Cheers for Change and Central ArtWorks.
- The staff has been as large as nine members and as small as three.
- My own role has changed five different times:
- Outreach Advocate
- Assistant Program Manager
- Director of Outreach Services
- Acting Executive Director
- Executive Director
It has been an amazing thirteen years! I have worked and continue to work with great people: staff, volunteers, interns, and Board members. I have sat with guests and heard their difficult stories. I have cried with some. I have laughed with some. I have been angry with some. I have watched some of our guests struggle for thirteen years, something I wish were not the case. I have seen others move out of their dire situations. I have had guests come back and thank me for the work we do. I have had guests yell at me because we can’t do enough to assist them. The work has never been easy, but it has been rewarding.
I have come to understand that people experiencing homelessness are no different than you and I and with certain changes in our own circumstances, we too could be walking in their shoes. I have come to understand that the issue of homelessness is extremely complex and the solutions are not quick and easy. It takes a lot of different organizations working together, each focusing on what they do well to truly make a difference in the numbers of those experiencing homelessness. It takes resources to make it work and not all funders want to support this type of work.
I am certainly not the same individual that I was thirteen years ago, when I first walked in the doors of Central OAC. I have grown and changed as a person. As I said earlier, I never dreamed I would still be here thirteen years later. There were certainly times when I thought I couldn’t do this work one more day and there are still days like that. However, throughout these thirteen years, people have been there to support and encourage me. Without each person (and there are too many to individually thank), I would not still be here. I often say that I hope when it is time for me to leave Central OAC that I will clearly know that. For now, however, I am still serving and I am grateful for the dedicated staff, volunteers and board members whom I work with each day. It truly is a privilege to serve in this place as we all work together to open doors to overcome and prevent homelessness!
Kimberly isn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary: Central OAC is celebrating 20 years of service in downtown Atlanta! In honor of both Kimberly’s time at the OAC and Central OAC turning 20, please consider giving to support our continuing work. Visit our donations page for more.