In early March, StoryCorps Atlanta spent a day recording stories of hope, redemption and service at City of Refuge, a neighborhood-based service center in the Vine City community of Atlanta. We had an opportunity to listen to some of the staff, volunteers, and residents while we were there. Based on the stories we heard and the people we met, City of Refuge assists the helped to become the helpers.
“It’s a privilege to be in this space and place and do what I do,” says Dr. Charles Moore, who heads the free clinic at City of Refuge. Dr. Moore and his research advisee, Sheri Davis-Faulkner, were one of the six pairs to share their stories at City of Refuge. As a physician treating patients with head and neck cancers, Dr. Moore grew frustrated that by the time he saw patients, they had few treatment options left. He kept thinking, “Somebody needs to do something to help these patients.” One day he thought, “Maybe that person is supposed to be me.”
As a young girl, Sheri studied ballet from ages 3-13 and her ballet instructors told her she needed to lose weight. Her baby-sitters armed Sheri with the self-confidence to “decide what my body looked like and not to feel like I needed to fight my body.” As part of her doctoral research, Sheri wanted to help middle and high school students in urban food deserts (locations with limited access to whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables). She needed a site that would agree to provide space for her field research on childhood obesity and body image.
Both Dr. Moore and soon-to-be-Dr. Davis-Faulkner credit “divine intervention” for leading them to City of Refuge, which is now the site of Dr. Moore’s HEAL (Health Education Assessment and Leadership) clinic and Sheri’s programs for addressing childhood obesity and building positive body images among Black girls. Like City of Refuge, Dr. Moore and Sheri are committed to working within the neighboring communities. “The leaders who are going to change this neighborhood live in this neighborhood,” observes Sheri.
City of Refuge is committed to “bringing hope to those who live on the margin.” With inspiring staff and volunteers like the ones we met, City of Refuge is just what the doctor ordered to serve and inspire its neighboring community. Hope blooms year-round in Vine City.
Part of Dr. Moore’s story was edited by WABE and aired during Morning Edition and City Cafe on Tuesday, April 13, 2010. Listen to that broadcast at www.wabe.org/storycorps.