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In the past several weeks Augusta has been in headline news all over the world on two topics – one positive, one negative.

Al Jackson, who works with Thompson Building and Wrecking Co., loads boxes with items from Laney Supermarket's eviction into a Golden Harvest Food Bank truck in this March 27 photo. The company helped spare nonperishable grocery items from the Richmond County landfill.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
SARA CALDWELL/FILE
Al Jackson, who works with Thompson Building and Wrecking Co., loads boxes with items from Laney Supermarket's eviction into a Golden Harvest Food Bank truck in this March 27 photo. The company helped spare nonperishable grocery items from the Richmond County landfill.

The 2013 Masters Tournament took place last week. Thousands flocked to our beautiful city and millions watched golfer Adam Scott win the coveted green jacket. Many congratulations to him and his country of Australia.

Less than two weeks earlier, headlines blared about a grocery store closing in an economically disadvantaged Augusta neighborhood while residents watched tons of food and other grocery items hauled onto a truck to be taken to an area landfill. One headline read “Bank Throws Away Food Right In Front of the Poor and Hungry.” I actually saw the scene as I drove by that Tuesday afternoon after picking up one of the children I mentor, but I had no idea what was happening at the time. I found out later when I logged onto Facebook and read comments that dominated the social media site and the evening television news.

MY FIRST THOUGHT about this incident was: Could this have been handled much differently? Wasn’t there a compassionate individual, who knew this eviction was going to take place, who could have brought some people together to discuss how and where the nonperishable contents of this store could be disposed of, without an audience? Webster’s Dictionary defines “compassion” as “deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.”

I’m familiar with the eviction process, from personal experience, and know that it takes weeks for it all to play out. There are multiple opportunities for resolution to take place during that time frame. So there was time to come up with a game plan so that this public relations nightmare wouldn’t have occurred.

As a believer and a person with strong faith, I believe there will be something positive that will come out of this horrible situation. And based on the fact that the nonperishable items were indeed taken to Golden Harvest Food Bank after all, it is clear this could have been handled in a much different way. But the damage already was done. Follow-up stories are good, but often people don’t read them or remember. What they will recall is the first image and information they saw about a story.

THE GOOD NEWS, believe it or not, is that the spotlight is now on this area, also known as east Augusta, for another reason other than high incidents of crime, which it is mainly known for. Now that the grocery store is no longer in business on Laney-Walker Boulevard, there is only one very small independent store on East Boundary Street. The closest large grocery stores, Bi-Lo on Gordon Highway and Kroger on 15th Street, are between 10 and 15 miles of the 20,000-plus residents who live in that area. That to me is the travesty. Think about how far you have to drive to buy food for your family. Some probably live close enough to walk, like I do.

I remember living in east Augusta for one year when my father was stationed in Vietnam. I was in first grade and attended W.S. Hornsby Elementary School. That was the only time my family lived in Augusta before my father retired from the Air Force after 20 years in service, and we settled here in April 1975.

MY SOLUTIONS-ORIENTED radar in me spurred me to research grocery-store business models sensitive to the needs of economically depressed neighborhoods. In my research I discovered that many large-chain grocery stores seem to think people in those areas are not worthy of their business.

Excuse me – even if a disproportionate number of folks live on food stamps, that is still the equivalent of money, and they have to eat. Again, lack of compassion comes to my mind.

I understand business and the need to make money and a profit. I get that. And so does actor, philanthropist and businessman Wendell Pierce ,who with his partner Tony Henry recently opened a grocery store in New Orleans created specifically for areas overlooked by the “big boys.”

A longtime high-school friend of mine – who no longer lives here, but has a passion for community economic development and giving people hope, just like I do – brought this to my attention after reading my comments on Facebook. Their stores are stocked with healthy and nutritious food, and they offer educational opportunities on healthy eating and living. Their mission is to be a part of the solution in bringing hope to the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I love the concept.

THERE IS A NEW catchphrase called “urban food deserts” that a friend, committed to addressing this in our community, brought to my attention several months ago. According to experts these “deserts” have become rapidly growing emerging markets for those interested in economic development revitalization efforts in distressed areas.

An urban food desert simply means ‘a district with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet.” According to The Augusta Chronicle, there have been five areas identified in Richmond County.

I have coined a new term – “compassionate economic development” – and have assembled a team that will be working on projects to address this chronic concern in east Augusta. I believe that most people are compassionate about something. I also believe we are a community of compassionate people. We are simply compassionate about different things. But it also seems that compassion about economic development efforts in various part of our city has to be all or none. This doesn’t have to be the case, because we can work collaboratively if we share the same vision.

INDIFFERENCE MAY occur when one is not aware of a particular issue, but it doesn’t mean a person is not compassionate. For example, until I read an article in The Augusta Chronicle last June about Georgia ranking No. 2 in childhood obesity, I was not aware of that statistic; therefore, I wasn’t compassionate about it. As an advocate for young people and as part of my monthly Unlikely Allies Emerging Leaders Conference Series, I helped organizers add a health/fitness session as part of our training, and the young people love it. I am passionate about teaching these young people healthy behaviors that can stay with them the rest of their lives.

The lack of healthy grocery stores in areas such as Laney-Walker has a direct impact on the childhood obesity problem, which affects their ability to concentrate and learn in school. The negative domino effect is huge, and we have to do something about it.

RECENTLY SOME of our Augusta commissioners took a trip to Chicago to receive national recognition for the new Laney-Walker Boulevard/Bethlehem housing development. I commend the staff with Augusta Housing and Community Development for the fine job they’re doing. And the new homes are beautiful. But the people who plan to live in those fine homes still have to eat, and I’m sure they would welcome the chance to shop for healthy foods without having to pack a light snack for the long trip to the grocery store.

There is a popular saying: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” It was true when President John F. Kennedy most popularly used it in a 1963 speech, and it is true today. We have a unique opportunity now to address and resolve myriad social concerns, which can have a positive impact on the entire region, and in an area of Augusta that gets and receives the least compassion and love.

(The writer is an entrepreneur, author, youth advocate and mental health advocate in Augusta.)

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puppydog
228
Points
puppydog 04/21/13 - 07:37 am
1
4
The bank could have shown some compassion

The bank could have shown some compassion and philanthropy and worked with the grocery store owner and not just thrown him out in the street, leaving hundreds or thousands of residents ( many of whom have no transportation other than their 2 feet) with no source of food. There definitely needs to be a grocery store in that area, which houses a large segment of our city's population. Sometimes it's not just all about profit, but about humanity.

soapy_725
44121
Points
soapy_725 04/21/13 - 09:53 am
0
0
Yes, the bank could have been more compassionate.
Unpublished

But to say that there is no source of food for the hungry in Augusta is ludicrous. The Master's Table at 702 Fenwick St feeds 300+ individuals 365 days a year with unpaid volunteers. Some go through the line more than once, if time allows. These already cooked meals are served to those assembled without regard to any status other than their name.

This is just one of many locations where food is available simply for the asking. Yes, there are those in America at risk for hunger. Starving children? Only if their parents allow them to starve.

The Golden Harvest Food Bank distributes food through it many agencies/churches to the needy. The churches in these neighborhoods have food pantries. They had better be giving this food to the needy.

As one who has been deeply involved in charity and social services in Augusta for years, we know the truth. There is a truth about charity in Augusta and elsewhere. All motives are not pure. All motives are not selfless. There is a difference in being hunger and gathering for free food. Individuals have no problem with transportation when the food is free.

rperaza
17
Points
rperaza 04/21/13 - 10:28 am
5
0
Not the bank's job...

If this grocer was so important to the neighborhood then why did it go under? It is not the job of the bank to play Social Worker. They gave a loan to a small business and that small business failed, probably from lack of support from its own community. I use the Kroger at 15th street all the time since moving so close by, but what shocks me is the lack of respect patrons show the store. They take no pride while shopping.

dichotomy
37534
Points
dichotomy 04/21/13 - 11:32 am
7
2
Ms. Adams, with all due

Ms. Adams, with all due respect......"“Bank Throws Away Food Right In Front of the Poor and Hungry.”

I agree that it was a shame that good food was thrown away. It all should have gone to a food bank. However, I watched multiple videos and newscasts of the incident and I saw no one who looked malnourished. I suspect the crowd was just rubber-necking and/or waiting to see if there would be freebies.

And....."even if a disproportionate number of folks live on food stamps, that is still the equivalent of money." To rperaza's point, if this store was so important, and if food stamps are equivalent of money, then why did the store FAIL. And if it had been a major grocery store would it not also fail in the same neighborhood.

I wish you luck in finding someone or some organization that will open a "break even" grocery store in that area. However, please don't oversell your case by telling us that all of those people are poor and hungry. Most people on total government subsidy are getting benefits that exceed what someone who works 40 hours a week at a low wage job gets and who is paying their own way at no cost to the taxpayer.

Maybe if those folks were looking for a job instead of standing around on the corner during the middle of the day watching a foreclosure and hoping for freebies they would not be so "poor".

Riverman1
93864
Points
Riverman1 04/21/13 - 11:35 am
3
0
A Black Owned Store May Work

I totally agree that food didn't need to be thrown away under police protection. Common sense would have told the poor folks in that community to line up and help themselves in an orderly manner. Finally, Thomson Wrecking Service realized this was good food and gave it to the Food Bank.

Ms. Blocker-Adams wish for stores in poor areas is understandable. I wonder if a black owned and ran grocery store with considerable ties to the community wouldn't have the support of all the residents in ways not seen previously. They could be very protective of THEIR community store and help keep things in line. The NEW RCSO could pitch in to help, too.

seenitB4
97787
Points
seenitB4 04/21/13 - 01:06 pm
5
0
With all due respect

I agree good food thrown away is kinda insane,....but also think about this.....a grocery can't stay afloat if they aren't making a profit....that would be insane too...
When I lived in the Fleming--Wheeless rd area many moons ago...we had many grocery stores....good--clean--well used stores....so what happened?? The shoppers have to play a part in this agenda too...a thriving store won't just close the doors & move away...just recently we had an article about robbers in the south Augusta stores...and it isn't just the ebt cards in use....sometimes the groceries walk away from the store & some don't pass by the cash register......many many reasons will cause closures.....the community plays a part in this problem......I agree it can change...thanks for your fb posts...I read them all the time.

Young Fred
21145
Points
Young Fred 04/21/13 - 01:41 pm
2
1
It's all nice and good to

It's all nice and good to wish for something better. But I fear you've an extreme case of naivete. Maybe if we could somehow legislate how food stamps are spent you'd have a case. I'd like you to take the time to observe how taxpayer subsidized “basic sustenance” is actually used. One would think that Frito-Lay's owns stock in the food stamp BUSINESS.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 04/21/13 - 02:08 pm
6
2
"Maybe if those folks were
Unpublished

"Maybe if those folks were looking for a job instead of standing around on the corner during the middle of the day watching a foreclosure and hoping for freebies they would not be so "poor"."
These people have been free loading much too long to even think about a job. They are the democrat base.

allhans
24900
Points
allhans 04/21/13 - 02:33 pm
2
0
Good one as usual dichotomy.

Good one as usual dichotomy. Right on the money.

itsanotherday1
48346
Points
itsanotherday1 04/21/13 - 06:33 pm
1
0
It is my understanding that

It is my understanding that this grocer was unable to get the required permissions to accept EBT in a timely mannner, which put them under since the majority of their clientele were food stamp receipients.

Young Fred
21145
Points
Young Fred 04/21/13 - 07:35 pm
3
0
How do you define "in a timely manner"?

How hard can it be? All the convenience stores I frequent take EBT. Every time I go I end up behind someone buying Mt. dew, tater chips, and slim jims with their EBT that I paid for, while I'm buying whatever is on sale.

Grandpa Jones
1164
Points
Grandpa Jones 04/21/13 - 08:38 pm
0
0
...

Every time I go I end up behind someone buying Mt. dew, tater chips, and slim jims with their EBT that "I paid for."
_________________________
Sorry to burst your bubble, Fred, but that EBT card belongs to the Chinese.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 04/22/13 - 10:52 am
0
0
“Sorry to burst your bubble,
Unpublished

“Sorry to burst your bubble, Fred, but that EBT card belongs to the Chinese.”
Grandpa, sorry to burst your bubble but the national debt belongs to all of us. The democrats have made slaves out of millions of people just to get their votes.

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