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Straight From the Mike…Right in our Midst


It was pleasing to read the recent article by the MDJ that so rightfully recognized the importance of volunteerism in general and highlighted the 15th anniversary of the Family Life Restoration Center. It is a jewel in our midst of the South Cobb Community and is justly being recognized as a beacon of hope, and a lifeline to thousands of families over the past 15 years of service.

I was quite fortunate to learn through my catechism classes and Roman Catholic upbringing the belief in and the beauty of Angels. The belief became even more personal for me as I learned about the Archangel, who I was named after. The experience served me well because after meeting Luther and Angie Washington at their 10th anniversary dinner and me getting more involved in the South Cobb community, it did not take long to realize that I sure know of two angels in our midst. They have shown limitless boundaries when it comes to families, as well as individuals in need. It became quite obvious that FLRC has been a safe harbor and lifeline to over 13,000 families alone, since opening operations in South Cobb 15 years ago.

Also mentioned in the article, FLRC’s motto is: “Life begins with the family and ends with the family.” So, I ask you, why live your lives without your family, as Luther has added to his cell phone voice mail. Nevertheless, in the background of it all, I seem to hear back-to-back choruses from two appropriate songs, “Lean on me” by Bill Withers and “I’ll be there” as done by the infamous Michael Jackson. The Washington’s know all too well the difference in being like a trampoline, for a challenged family or individual, versus like a swamp, which lends itself to dependency and victimhood. Or better yet, as the lyrics from another one of my favorite balladeers, Regina Bell, “Tired of living life in black and white. There’s so much in between. Like a rainbow in the sky, crying to be seen.”

Full disclosure to all here, since my departure from Cobb County government, I have become a proud Board Member of FLRC and strive to earn my ‘angel’ status, in due course.

It is so important, as the article pointed out; Cobb County is blessed with a bevy of dedicated, selfless, and hardworking nonprofits. I was quite fortunate to be able to get to work with many of them. During my tenure as Special Assistant to the Chairman, one of my initial assignments was to review, recommend and help support the dollar allocations of the county to the nonprofit distributive entities, specifically, Cobb Community Foundation and Center for Family Resources. After a deep dive review into nonprofit allocations in Cobb, of surrounding counties and nearby states, it was clear to me that we were missing real opportunities. We were pinning our hopes on, what I call, reenactments of the miracles of the Loaves and the Fishes and the Marriage Feast of Cana. We were attempting to spread funds a mile wide, but only an inch or two deep. Simply put, too many organizations receiving too few funds to be effective.

Initially, my report suggested that we narrow our focus to three or four major areas for assistance. Of course, family resources and stability assistance and youth support were key lynchpin recommendations. Yes, there was some blowback. Some even suggested that it was not a role of government to assist nonprofits with public funds. In my mind, that attitude was a shortsighted observation, to say the least.

It is important to highlight a couple of key points here. It can hardly be disputed that our nonprofits are much more prolific and effective in reviewing the qualifications and addressing the needs than government. Secondly, government cannot be compassionate; people and organizations can.

The end result was, after some revisions and adjustments, a 5-0 BOC vote was secured for my agenda item and a new thrust in the county could get underway. Of course, I did not receive instant acclaim because it meant a revamp for the fund dispensers. It means disappointment to some nonprofits that had very worthwhile causes, but outside of the new scope. Furthermore, we all know what ultimately occurred with the next budget cycle, was the decision to zero out all distribution of funds for nonprofits.

Fortunately, as we fast forward to the present day, Cobb County and nonprofits are joined at the hip. The support for food pantries and feed the hungry organizations have been heartening. The programs instituted to assist with mortgage payments and rental assistance has been a Godsend.

Were it not for the usual ‘Red tape’ of government, every designated nonprofit handling rental assistance will tell you, it has made matters ever so burdensome and slow. A local landlord of several complexes in South Cobb has shared with me that out of over $300,000 due him in rental assistance, he has, to date, only received less than $10,000. How long can one keep the wolf away from the door?

Moreover, we should not forget the in depth and fervent survey that was performed through the leadership of the Cobb Community Foundation on our South Cobb community. I will spare you the details but recommend you to the website: www.cobbcommnityfoundation.org to see their recommendations and human needs heat map. It was presented before the previous BOC and community stakeholders. It was relevant then and even more relevant now.

With organizations like FLRC down in the riverbed, we have every reason to be excited about a new South Cobb.

Upcoming events like the one next month, Welcome to Mableton, is such an exemplary example of what the future can portend when we uplift angels and organizations in the midst of our community, for all to see.

We continue to strive toward that ‘Beloved Community’. We surely should know that what we do for those with the least, we do for the mightiest, and for that, we will reap a harvest along life’s path.

Until next time.

Michael Murphy

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