Building Community on Common Ground

By Rebekah Giambroni

he holiday season is a time for care and compassion, qualities that Common Ground Community has been fostering in the Cedar Grove neighborhood for nearly twenty years. Their mission of compassion and acceptance is rooted in the words of Jesus from Matthew 22: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What began as an outreach of Grace Community UMC and partnering with other churches, quickly grew to meet the needs of the community. Common Ground began with offering meals and after school tutoring, soon adding weekly chapel services. In addition to meals, they help feed the community through their food pantry, open weekly on Thursdays, where neighbors “shop” for items to get them through the week, helping them maintain self-sufficiency. Tutoring is still offered through Atkins Elementary and provides weekend snack bags for those who face heightened food insecurity and “literacy” bags that include books, snacks, activities, and dental hygiene products. Summer camps offer STEM lessons, drama, and lasting friendships.

Thanks to partnerships with other churches, civic and service organizations, local healthcare systems, Caddo schools, and other nonprofits, Common Ground is able to offer both youth and adult programs promoting literacy, money management, parent and caregiving skills, healthcare, recreation and fitness, and spiritual growth. If we are to love God with body, soul, and mind – this organization is ensuring all three are well nourished to do so.

Besides sponsoring regular classes and opportunities that help educate and assist participants, Common Ground hosts special seasonal events full of fun starting with Spring Fling at Easter, Fall Fest close to Halloween, and their fantastic Christmas Market. 

This year is the organization’s tenth annual Christmas Market. Thanks to donations, families can buy gifts for their loved ones at affordable prices. Nothing in the market costs over five dollars, so even on a very limited budget, individuals are able to walk away with something for everyone on their list. There are also volunteers who will wrap the gifts, so every present is picture perfect. CEO Lisa Cronin said, “This is for the individuals who may be struggling with money, and not looking for a handout, but a way to still give their families a good Christmas.” Each member is assigned a personal shopper, who helps select the perfect gift for each person on the participant’s list. Last year’s market was able to provide presents for 300 families. 

Donations of toys, clothes, household items, or sporting equipment of no more than $35 can be dropped off Monday through Friday or mailed from your favorite retailer. In addition to gift donations, Common Ground is in need of wrapping paper, gift bags, tape, and tissue paper. Volunteers and money donations are also welcome. This year’s market will be held on Saturday, Dec. 16. 

If you find that the holiday rush makes it difficult to contribute during Christmas, Common Ground welcomes donations and volunteer support all year round. Your gifts, whether financial or your time, will help build community throughout the year.