The 15th Annual Lazarus Christmas Dinner was wonderful. With the help of over 150 volunteers, we celebrated Christmas and feasted alongside over 200 guests. Our tables were filled with beautiful decorations and heaping plates of food. People gathered around them, engaged in conversation and sang carols together. The barriers that often divide were no where to be seen.
The 10th Annual Lazarus Health Day might go down as one of the wettest, but it was also one of the most beautiful events we’ve ever seen. The Atlanta community came together in incredible ways throughout the day and it was wonderful to witness. We are continually amazed at how well everything comes together year in and year out at our events, even when we’re thrown curveballs like the downpour we faced on Sunday.
We are so grateful for our friends at Atlanta Mission, Bulldog Movers, CMDA Atlanta, Event Services of Georgia, GVHCP, King of Pops, MailChimp, Redeemer, Trinity, United Way of Greater Atlanta, Wesleyan School, and all of our wonderful volunteers!
I went to my first Lazarus event in 2010. I had been out to serve a few times with a weekly team, and a few weeks later I found myself at the 8th Annual Super Bowl Party. It was also the third year the party had included a Chili Cook-Off.
This year we watched the game at the 14th Annual Super Bowl Party. (If you’re counting, fourteen years ago we were watching Super Bowl XXXVI.) I try to imagine how Lazarus must have evolved as an organization in its 15 years- impacting lives, forming friendships, restoring dignity, and promoting kinship. I’ve seen so much change and growth in just six years, in myself and in the relationships I’ve formed.
For many Lazarus events, I’ve helped with media relations and social media. I’ve also participated in a weekly team and served meals for the overflow at Gateway. I return to Lazarus events year over year because they transcend the divisions of economic or social differences. Volunteering doesn’t feel like volunteering. Serving doesn’t feel like serving.
And the Super Bowl Party is especially unique. Mostly because that’s exactly what it is and that’s all it is- a party.
This year, we enjoyed a bright, sunny day with hundreds of volunteers and guests. At every turn, I could see people taking pictures in the photo booth, thoughtfully considering their chili options, exchanging laughs and stories, and playing games (including several rounds of Bingo called by some very serious and committed MCs).
We had more than 40 chilis vying for the titles of Best Overall Chili (Nate Willie won, with “Chili Chili Bang Bang”), Spiciest Chili (Emily Mayhew took this title with her recipe, “Adam’s Rib”), and Best Chili That’s Not Actually Chili (yes, that’s a category, and Mark Condit’s “Chili con Condit” won this category).
Lazarus truly embodies kinship and dignity through relationships, and there’s something beautiful and restoring about hanging out and feeling overwhelmed by the abundance of chili and popsicles (courtesy of our friends at King of Pops!) or debating Panthers vs. Broncos, regardless of how we got there.
If you haven’t experienced this yet, just come to one of our events.
The 14th Annual Lazarus Christmas Dinner was incredible.
With the help of 160 wonderful volunteers, we celebrated Christmas and feasted alongside over 300 guests. Our tables were filled with beautiful decorations and heaping plates of food. People gathered around them, engaged in conversation and sang carols together. The barriers that often divide were no where to be seen. It was beautiful.
An older lady who came as a guest told us on her way out that she expected heaven to be something like what she experienced today.
Thank you so much to everyone who came out and made the dinner so great.
As I rode my bike through downtown Atlanta looking for the Health Day site, I saw a sea of people in medical scrubs and immediately knew I was in the right spot. This was my first time in three years attending Health Day after moving back to Atlanta from a stint in Washington DC, and I had forgotten what a celebration of life that it is.
Just days before the event, Allison McGill had asked me to help document the day’s activities through Lazarus’s social media channels. I feel like I was blessed with one of the best jobs of the event, since I got to tell the story of Health Day in real time as the day unfolded.
After I arrived, Ben Parks shared with me Lazarus’s focus on kinship. What does that mean exactly? Dictionary.com defines kinship as “the state of having common characteristics or a common origin; a family relationship”. This was so interesting to me, because in my own work as a communicator for an international humanitarian organization, I always strive to tell the stories of the international people we serve in a way that portrays their dignity and builds global kinship. It’s not us here, and them over there, but rather we are all humans with similar struggles and desires to be known and loved and longing for community.
So I began to look at Health Day through that lens of kinship, and as I observed how people interacted that day, everyone blended in as though we were all truly were part of a family. We were all one big tribe, celebrating life together that day.
The normal divisions of groups that you often see at a party don’t exist at Health Day. This notion of kinship could be seen in the way the medical volunteers provided health services, to the way people shopped for clothes together, shared career advice, treated themselves to pedicures and played games and danced.
I’m not a medical professional, but I am a dancer, so my favorite place to be was near the stage with the music. It all started with a little Michael Jackson…and there was one dude who stayed on the dance floor the entire day. His joy and stamina were both impressive and inspiring. During the karaoke session, there was a young man who moved the crowd to their feet with his own original number, called “Superblessed”. Then the day concluded with a joint worship session from the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church choir followed by a sermon from Kris McDaniel, the lead pastor at Trinity Anglican.
One of my favorite moments I captured on Instagram was the dance party that included kids and adults from all walks of life at the event, and I thought “this is what Health Day is all about”…people coming together no matter where you come from or what you’re dealing with, feeling good and celebrating the gift of life that God has given us. It was a good day.
You can view more pictures of this beautiful day here.
The first time I stepped foot into the middle of a Lazarus event I knew that I was in the midst of a good thing.
Almost five years ago to the day, I agreed to help out with the tear-down section at Health Day. I had recently become friends with Allison McGill, and you couldn’t be friends with Allison without being drafted into service for a Lazarus event. I asked Allison what job has the hardest time finding volunteers. She told me tear-down. I said, “I’ll take that job.”
A week later I stood on a downtown Atlanta street in the middle of what could best be described as a carnival-like atmosphere. Tents were scattered everywhere. People were singing hymns. There was even a dunk tank. The event was just wrapping up, so I found Allison (on the roof of a building giving orders through a walkie talkie like a field general) and told her to tell me what to do.
I spent the next three hours breaking down tents, loading tables and chairs into a moving truck, and loading everything back into storage until the next event. I was dog-tired at the end of it, but the sense of joy I felt was stronger than any muscle soreness.
Over the next five years I helped out primarily at Lazarus’ three annual Atlanta events. It wasn’t always easy. One particularly hot Health Day I took on the task of helping fill dozens water coolers and hauling them back and forth across the street to the drink station. I came down with strep throat the day before one Christmas Dinner, but I kept my commitment to help prepare mashed potatoes (don’t worry, I used a whole bottle of hand sanitizer while preparing it).
But it was often just as fun. My wife and I spent our first year as contestants in the Super Bowl Party & Chili Cook-Off convincing skeptical clients and volunteers that our bright green chili was not only edible, but delicious. I’ve torn down the streets of downtown Atlanta on more than one occasion in the old Golden Malted Waffle van to deliver equipment for event set-up.
But the one thing that has stuck out the most over the years about Lazarus events is the atmosphere. Volunteering never feels like hard work even though you work hard. It feels like you’re throwing a party for all of your friends. That year I practically force-fed people our green chili (which ended up finishing fourth place) I spent the evening huddled around a space heater with a group of people cracking jokes about the Super Bowl commercials. I spent one Health Day making plenty of new friends by handing out a mountain of sack lunches that we had prepared for all of the clients and volunteers. We then handed out seconds once we realized we had made way too many of them.
If you had to summarize Lazarus in one word, that word would be kinship. And nowhere is the spirit of kinship stronger than at a Lazarus event.
Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.
– ‘Scout’ in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Last year our friend Micah Whitson at Old Try participated in the first Lazarus Print Show, NO ORDINARY PEOPLE. It was a benefit to help support our mission, but also a way to use creativity and art to expand the vision of what it means to care about your fellow man and believe in kinship. The show theme was based on a passage from a talk C.S. Lewis gave called The Weight of Glory:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.
Micah says, “The thing that came to my mind when we were designing this print was the Scout quote from To Kill A Mockingbird: I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. That’s really it. Some may have homes. Some might have a hell of a lot of cash in the bank. But at the days’ end, we’re all in the same boat. And the more folks that operate out of love, like Lazarus, the better off we’ll all be.”
So, we are excited to announce that we’ve partnered up again with our friends at Old Try on a new limited edition run of 100 letterpress prints based on their design from the NO ORDINARY PEOPLE benefit. We will be offering the prints for $50/each at Trinity Anglican Mission‘s Westside location this Sunday, May 17 & at the Eastside location next Sunday, May 24.
If you can’t wait, or aren’t in Atlanta, you can order one directly from Old Try now.
- Letterpress printed in Massachusetts
- 13″ x 20″
- 110lb Lettra letterpress paper
- Numbered run of 100
- Professional framing available, if print is ordered directly from Old Try
- Proudly Printed on 100% Cotton
- As is the nature of any handmade item, there are slight variations in inking & each one is perfect in its own way.
Our 2nd Annual H Street Block Party was a Huge Success!
Thank you to The Table Church DC and everyone that came out and made the day so great! It can sometimes be difficult to measure the success of these types of events with hard data, but we can safely say it was a success… and just for fun, here are some numbers:
- We served 400 King of Pops popsicles.
- We served 600 hot dogs
- We gave away over $1200 in prizes for the BBQ contest, cookie contest, dance-off, and Bingo.
- Nick was dunked 219 times in water that was somewhere between cold and quite cold.