Falcons want fans to ‘Rise Up’ and do community service

[VIDEO ABOVE: Tony Johns, 41, COO of the City of Refuge agency, talks about the Falcons and Arthur Blank Family of Businesses employees' community service day. George Henry of the Associated Press is asking the questions.]

Just a two miles west of the Georgia Dome, all of the employees from the Falcons and the Blank Family of Businesses did some community service at the City of Refuge on Thursday.

The City of Refuge is a social service agency that mainly serves homeless women and children in one of the roughest, drug-infested and depressed parts of Georgia.

“The 30314 area code has the highest rate of infectious diseases and highest infant mortality rate [in the State],” said Tony Johns, City of Refuge’s chief operating officer. “As a matter of fact, our infant mortality rate in this local area is higher than many African Nations.”

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and City of Refuge CEO Bruce Deel on Thursday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and City of Refuge CEO Bruce Deel on Thursday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)

About 180 workers including owner Arthur Blank, head coach Mike Smith, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, assistant coaches and scouts were a part of the volunteer effort.

“We are more than doubling the size of our garden which provides fresh fruits and vegetables not only to our residents who live onsite but a farm-to-table effort that we are doing in partnership with Mobile Groceries to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to food deserts,” Johns said.

They also worked on an indoor playground for 80 homeless children, remodeled resident dormitories for the women and painted of an indoor mural.

Bruce Deel, the executive director of City of Refuge, told a story of trying to help a recovering crack addict, who tried to live on the streets after being released from Grady Hospital with a two-week old baby.

“We are operating about 20 different types of wrap-around programs in housing, health care, education and employment,” said Johns, who’s in his ninth year working for the City of Refuge. “We are trying to bring stability and sustainability in four of those areas for those we serve.”

Johns rattled off some of the statistics that reflect the plight of the inner city neighborhood.

“Statistically, when it comes to crime, poverty and health care this community, zip code 30314, is at the greatest risk of any community in the state of Georgia,” Johns said. “Sixty percent of the homicides that occur in the metro Atlanta, all of the counties that make up Metro Atlanta, 60 percent of those homicides occur right here is 30314.

“We have the highest rate of drug transactions in the state. As a matter of fact, a recent comeback of heroin usage and heroin trafficking just about three blocks up the street is kind of the main corridor for that in Atlanta right now.

“We have the highest rate of poverty in Atlanta. Over a 35 percent poverty rate in our community. Seventy-three percent of our children are in single adult households.

“Only 49 percent of our children graduate from high school. It’s really a crisis of resources right now because of the lack of investment.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also stopped by the City of Refuge.

“So a day, like today, when the for-profit-world and government agencies in the presence of Mayor [Kasim] Reed make a commitment and an investment in an under-served and under-resourced community, it makes a huge difference,” Johns said.

The Falcons, plan to spread their “Rise Up” campaign with actor Samuel L. Jackson to include community service by their fans.

“The idea is a simple one,” said Falcons president and chief executive officer Rich McKay. “In addition to wanting our fans to help us become the best team in the NFL on the field, we also want our fans to Rise Up and volunteer their time and talents throughout the year in an effort to make our great community a better place to live.”

The Falcons have partnered with Hands On Atlanta, one of the largest community-based volunteer service organizations in the United States in an effort to encourage volunteerism across the city. Falcons fans and community-minded volunteers can log onto RISEUPATLANTA.com to sign up for a variety of volunteer opportunities coordinated by Hands On Atlanta. Fans who sign up and attend a volunteer activity will receive a Falcons Rise Up team t-shirt.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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34 comments Add your comment


May 3rd, 2012
3:57 pm

Great effort by the Falcons organization now it is up to the rest of us to continue what others have started. Instead of complaining about what area the stadium is in, help build up that area so that it is as nice a location that you want your stadium in.


May 3rd, 2012
4:07 pm

THIS is exactly what Atlanta sports are lacking, teams that care about our community. Sure the Braves are involved as well, but when then ownership could care less about what they are doing, it just isn’t the same. Keep up the great work Mr. Blank


May 3rd, 2012
4:20 pm

Just another request for something free.


May 3rd, 2012
4:35 pm

I give enough of my money in taxes to fund the EBT and welfare programs for these people. Keep giving to them and they’ll only keep expecting it. If they care no more for themselves or their children to live in such places, then why invest money or clean it up? Does anyone actually think it’s gonna stay clean and liveable? Yeah, right. Build a million dollar complex and check on it in about 5-6 years. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It ain’t gonna happen people. It’s the way they’ve been taught to live and the way they’re teaching the next generation to live.

Fred Masci

May 3rd, 2012
5:01 pm

The Falcons Nation Charitable Organization (FNCO) has tried to do exactly this for the last several years — help the surrounding community by raising funds for various retired and existing players’ favorite charities but Falcons management hasn’t been too supportive of this effort. So it looks good to the public in the AJC article above but it is more talk the talk than walk the walk.

New Stadium my azz!

May 3rd, 2012
5:06 pm

The Falcons need to rise up and win!


May 3rd, 2012
5:15 pm

The Best community service project would be to USE their OWN MONEY to build the new stadium


May 3rd, 2012
5:57 pm

Wow, and I’m called negative? I wish them success in their efforts in helping people helping them selves in the 30314 “zip code!”


May 3rd, 2012
5:59 pm

I thought we were done with that “Rise Up ” garbage when we “Fell Down” the last 2 years . A motto or song is cool if it comes naturally but to force that horrible thing by Jackson on us is pure foolishness . A true stud dog don’t bark and untill we get quiet and serious , we’re gonna continue to be a joke unless winning seasons are what satisfies you.

billy ryckmann

May 3rd, 2012
6:13 pm

I’ll rise up when I get over the crap I took and the money lost the last 2 years while living in the state of Louseyanna

Chicken wings good in BBQ sauce

May 3rd, 2012
6:24 pm

Yes lets rise up falcons and win a superbowl also find of helpin folks and make place look great for poor and old folks also who need it for sure and disabled vets and others who are believe u and all work for a better city now we need rise up atlanta sprit owners on a wagon n haul them too!


May 3rd, 2012
6:46 pm

I wish they would drop that Rise Up thing, its lame

John Galt

May 3rd, 2012
7:16 pm

Yeah, yeah…”pay for our new stadium! Work for our charities!”

The Falcons need to put their hands back in their pockets, shut up and win something.

Delbert D.

May 3rd, 2012
7:17 pm

The Falcons and their millionaire cast are just fine for this effort. Lets leave it to them.


May 3rd, 2012
7:21 pm

Sorry, but I think all this is a useless distraction. The point of the Atlanta Falcons, their “raison d’etre,’ is to win. Period. Then they make more money. It’s just like the point of a corporation, viz. to make money for the shareholders. Everything else is public relations. Don’t fall for it.

Falcon Jim (The Real One)

May 3rd, 2012
8:14 pm

Wow TD and MS…you guys are just the best. We’re so fortunate that you guys are running the show. I love this story….I’m getting so emotional right now….rising up in more ways than one.


May 3rd, 2012
9:17 pm

What the organization is doing is working in the spirit of God’s will; which calls for us to recognize that we are all brothers and if one of us is struggling then we all are. If you do not want to contribute to their efforts then don’t, but, keep your stupid comments to yourself. They do not help one single person and only reveal your flawed character. Volunteer or don’t volunteer; but no one is interested in your reealing your ignorance. I will bet those of you who are knocking this project, go to church every Sunday and feel you’ve pleased God. WRONG!!!! Maybe if we count our blessings and understood the shortcomings of others, maybe, just maybe, if we took the time to educate, motivate, and inspire the people of this community who truly need a helping hand, they will take control of their community and their future. Don’t assume that everybody is on an equal playing field because you would be deceiving yourself and at the same time giving yourself an excuse not to get involved. Help out or step out and shut up! Not every poor person is an ignorant lazy good for nothing bum. Some people in this world can soar with a helping hand. It is not what goes in a man that destroyeth the man; yet it is what comes out. And it is clear what is coming out from some of you.
God bless you Mr. Blank. If more of the rich cared, this world would truly be a better place to live.


May 3rd, 2012
9:22 pm

correction..should read revealing your ignorance.


May 4th, 2012
12:59 am

Go Falcons! Beat the Saints!

[...] Here’s the blog on that. [...]


May 4th, 2012
9:16 am

Although, I’m a Chicago Bears fan living in Atlanta I would love to support this due to this is more than just football.


May 4th, 2012
10:12 am

Wow. Now yall are complaining that the Falcons are involved in community service??? really????

Aints fan with a small fleur de lis

May 4th, 2012
11:29 am

Tear that area down, buy it cheap, and build the stadium there. Two birds, one stone.


May 4th, 2012
11:30 am

Can’t please every body. People think just because they pay taxes that everything just happens…..
People always look to what they don’t have vs. what they do have.

I am glad the falcons put so much back into the community and never seek the eye of the city for recognition.

All i can say is think where we would be if Pitino was still here….
at least we are winning. THe colts had good records for years and only won 1 super bowl towards the end of peytons career.

What are you doing t ohelp your commnity…paying taxes is not enough….

[...] Here’s the blog on that. [...]

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May 5th, 2012
1:02 pm

If it wasn’t for King Arthur and players agents forcing players to start or join a charity, as a PR move, players would just use free time to wake up at noon, count their money, lay on their couches smoking weed and playing video games (these are adults?), and grow their illegitimate child base (keep it in your pants jerks).
Then they’re told to tell kids to stay in school, study, and graduate, when they’ve done none of that.


May 5th, 2012
1:15 pm

Most, if not all, professional stadiums are in ghetto dump areas. And they don’t neccessarily start out that way, but eventually become that way.
Same as any area an MLK street is named in this country. You would think residents of an MLK street area would want to make it a shining beacon of a productive, nice and clean neighborhood.


May 5th, 2012
1:24 pm

Unless you live off an MLK street, it’s not a road anyone wants to be on in any city.

Bob McDonough

May 6th, 2012
5:30 am

True, speaks from the inside.

literacy now

May 6th, 2012
8:25 pm

“Just a two miles…”? Really? You can’t get TWO WORDS into a piece without biffing it?

Literacy Now!

[...] Here’s the blog on that. [...]

uh huh

May 9th, 2012
4:43 pm

Joining any company or organization that forces charity work on their employees is a joke to the employee and doesn’t mean they would care enough to do on their own.