Nonprofit Remerge is moving its Community Building Studio and administrative headquarters to the quirky 597 Auburn Ave. building in the historic Sweet Auburn district.
Its current 340 Auburn Ave. location will continue offering community space, but will primarily serve as an arts center.
“We’re nearing the end of the design phase and hope to start the renovation this summer,” said the organization’s executive director Andy Odle.
Founded in 1999 to aid Atlanta’s chronically homeless, Remerge evolved into a place-based nonprofit driven by inclusion and collaboration, welcoming all neighbors to work toward common ends.
“Internal to our mission is this theological concept of reconciliation, joining lives together or re-merge,” Odle said. “What better place to do that than in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood that has historically been the heart of reconciliation, experienced segregation, disinvestment, and a highway through it … and is now seeing a resurgence of interest?”
The Community Building Studio is where Remerge brings people together to try to solve problems, sometimes through programs like Community Connections.
“How do you get [Atlanta City Council Member] Amir Farokhi in a room with a neighbor experiencing homelessness to talk about participatory budgeting?” Odle posited. “We help facilitate that.”
Relationships, trust and ownership are built through programs, like Open House Tuesday, and by staff who have walked in their vulnerable neighbors’ shoes.
“Having a shared lived experience allows me to empathize and patiently support those in similar conditions,” said Ben Graham, Senior Associate with Sweet Auburn Connections. “It gives me a spark of connection needed to relight the pilot light of hope and perseverance.”
Volunteers have started programs like Giving Grace, which provides emergency financial assistance, a sustainability plan, and ongoing relational support for single-parent families, the homeless, and the extremely poor.
“[Christy Betz] showed up with donations for the homeless, was pretty scared, so dropped stuff off and left,” Odle said. “She came back and started to meet the human beings who were there. She met Rico, who needed shoes because he went through a pair a week, walking the streets. She asked Rico his size and asked her friends to donate shoes. Then she got to know somebody else.”
From this first act grew Giving Grace, which in 2022 served 2,436 metro Atlanta families with $1.7 million in direct services.
She explains it now as, ‘I have friends who have means and friends who don’t have means.’
William Massey, a local artist who volunteered with Remerge hosting community coloring sessions, launched ColorATL to connect people using art. Since 2016, Remerge collaborated with 105 local artists to produce four “Atlanta-grown” adult coloring books, partnering with Power Haus Creative for a Juneteenth edition and the Asian American Advocacy Fund for an Asian American and Pacific Islander children’s edition.
“Our coloring books have entered the hands of thousands of people,” Massey said. “[And] often go where artists can’t (i.e., rehab facilities). So even in hardship, each person who starts coloring may feel more connected to the artist’s artwork, biography, and love for our city…and themselves.”
Remerge emphasizes relationships with neighbors to drive decision-making.
“The more that we can love our neighbors, accept differences and try to find space that our lives are joined together, we’ll create communities of peace,” Odle said.