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February 01, 2015

BUILDHOPE › Southern Living ›


50 People Changing the South in 2015

Excited to announce that our founder, Brian Preston was named to 50 people changing the south in 2015 by Southern Living.  

You can read the article here.

 

January 26, 2015


ATL Bench Works

Can you tell us little bit about your story/background?
Several years ago I read one of Bob Lupton's books - Theirs is the Kingdom. It challenged me to look at poverty in a different way. I started to read and learn more about helping the poor & loving my neighbors. I learned that giving people dignity by giving them work, rather than handouts, was a better way to help people. Over the years I started my own online business & became very interested in starting businesses & I learned this was possibly a way I could help people. About 1 year ago I loved to "The Bluff" and I was being overwhelmed with guys coming by daily asking for food & money. So I started to give them odd jobs: washing my car, sweeping the porch, watering plants, etc. But there's only so many times you can water the plants before they start drowning. Around this time one of the guys built us a bench for our garden, and it looked pretty cool. And I knew that Brian had started Lamon Luther making furniture with homeless guys. So I thought maybe I could make & sell benches. And I've been trying to do it since then.
Oops, I didn't really answer the question. I'm a computer science major from UC Berkeley. I grew up in California, moved to Georgia back in '07 to work for a leadership company: Catalyst. Then launched my own business selling calendars online (NeuYear.net), which gives me a lot of free time. So now I live in the hood & I'm trying to learn to love my neighbors and help them on their feet.
What inspired you to start ATL Bench Works?
I was inspired seeing Brian build awesome rustic furniture with homeless guys. I was also inspired by reading Bob Lupton's "Compassion, Justice & the Christian Life" which started me thinking, "what business can I do that could employ low skilled labor, yet be sustainable." When a friend and I walked by our garden in the back, she said "oh, cool bench! I want one!" and right then it clicked. I realized I might have a product worth selling.
Why do you use pallets/recycled wood?
We use pallets because they are very accessible. Our neighborhood is kind of a dumping ground for stuff. There are lots of tires & random furniture that gets dumped on various corners. There are pallets too, in various places. Since my goal was to bring money to the community, I figured it was better to pay my neighbors to round-up free pallet wood, than to buy the wood from somewhere outside the neighborhood. And it was easier to test the idea with pallets. And it's fun to take something that is essentially trash & turn it into something useful & even beautiful - it's so efficient, I love efficiency. And also, pallets tend to have a weathered and worn look, which is so hot right now, it's like the rustic-ness is built in. They're perfect!
Can you think of one great story that illustrates the unique strength and impact that building these benches has?
One of my neighbors - "Cali" - lives on the front porch of an abandoned house. He scrapes by on unemployment. He saw me building benches and he saw his friends coming to my house to work. It inspired him to pursue one of his own dreams. He's always wanted to have a coffee shop. And he had an idea to sell coffee & donuts on the side of the road to commuters on their way to work. So he bought some coffee beans and found a table and a coffee maker, and made a cardboard sign & started his own business. I think showing people that they can do stuff has been a big part of what I'm doing. Sometimes people just need a good example, or a bit of inspiration to get off the couch & try it. Unfortunately, he gave-up after a couple weeks. I wish he would've stuck with it.
Have you felt like sense starting this business that it has given these guys and the surrounding neighbors a sense of community? 
Possibly. The two main guys that I have working for me seem to have become good friends. I don't remember if Gangsta (the builder) knew Malachi (the stainer) well before they started working for me. Unfortunately, I used to hire more than just them, but they pushed me to hire only them, so I haven't gotten too many others involved with this work. There's a strong sense of competition with the other homeless guys around because they all want work and sometimes feel that Gangsta & Malachi are selfish to want all this work to themselves & there's a bit of jealousy and people trying to jump-in when Malachi or Gangsta don't show up. So it's kinda messy, it's not cut & dried. Perhaps if I had a shop that was more secluded - but we work in the backyard and it's open and people I don't know sometimes come up and ask for work, which I usually can't afford to give. 
So, I would like to say "yes" but I don't know for sure. The surrounding neighbors aren't involved, unfortunately because we have so few neighbors. Half the houses on our block & the neighboring blocks are burned down or abandoned. But, I think people appreciate what we're doing. We've put benches at a few bus stops, which people appreciate and elsewhere we've put them around. One guy even sleeps on one of the benches. Sooooo, we're doing something, I guess. But no community around this yet. Well, definitely building my relationships with Gangsta & Malachi. Without the bench business I wouldn't really know them. And I've met several other guys through this business. William brings me pallets. A couple months into our relationship, I helped him build a website. Then there's another guy, James. He brings me pallets sometimes. Terry helped me a bit, but now he just fills-in when Gangsta's not around. We've done other stuff together. I'm helping him sell a dog on Craigslist. 
January 26, 2015


March 10, 2014


OUR KITCHEN MUST-HAVES

We love and believe in small businesses. We also believe in great food and the tools that we use to make the food we eat so great. The kitchen is where masterpieces happen. Getting creative in your kitchen is not only an art but it's proven to be therapeutic. Fill your kitchen with beautiful and practical tools to make cooking in the kitchen a little easier and obviously more attractive.
Here are a few of our favorite kitchen must-haves:
01. Wooden Recipe Box with adorable recipe cards from Rifle Paper Co.
02. George Kelly Wooden Scoop from Imogene + Willie
03. Enamelware mugs (similar)
04. The Kinfolk Table a recipe + gatherings book from Kinfolk
05. Ella Mae Bread Board from Lamon Luther
06. Fiddle Leaf Fig Ficus plant which you can find at most nurseries 
and homegoods warehouses (example: Home Depot)
What are some of your kitchen must-haves?
March 07, 2014


CRAFTSMEN FEATURE: TC

When we started Lamon Luther, our first goal was to help our friend TC who was living in the woods and had been for quite some time. After talking with TC we learned that he had a very interesting skill set accompanied by an even more interesting story.  Over the past two years TC’s story has evolved.  We wanted to share his amazing story with you.
“My names Rodger Curtis but I go by TC. Off and on I’ve been in and out of the woods for 15 years.”
 
“I used to build houses when I first started and I’ve done that for 27 years. When that fell off I went into warehouse work, and then I went into home remodeling, so I can basically do just about anything.”
 
“I was living in FL working with a home remodeler down there, and he got to where he wasn’t getting the work so I ended up walking, Plant City, FL back to Douglasville. Took me a month to get here. Plus I tried to come up this way to actually find my son, and I ain’t had no luck.”
We were inspired by TC’s story and his desire to better himself. We picked TC up for his first day of work on January 2nd 2012. He was the very first Lamon Luther employee. A year and a half later in the middle of 2013 things were looking better for TC. He had moved out of the woods and was working a consistent job, which he enjoyed. 
 
“What I like doing here at Lamon Luther is working with my hands to craft things that I never thought I would be able to do.”
 
“I try to do the very best I can to really show that old wood can be made to look new.” 
“I really enjoy seeing the smile on other peoples faces when they get a product that we put together and really crafted and put our hearts into.” 
 
Things were going a lot better for TC, however there was still one vice in his life that he could not beat. TC struggled with alcoholism. It was one of the things that had kept him in the woods for so long. We encouraged TC to go seek help that we knew we were not equipped to give him. He tried to go to rehab a few times before but it just didn’t work out. We then presented TC with a very difficult choice. We told him that we loved him and wanted nothing more than for him to continue working with us, but for that to happen he had to get better. We needed him to get help that we could not give him. TC agreed to go to The Potters House in conjunction with the Atlanta Mission.  We knew the journey would be difficult and it was hard to lose our first employee, but for TC to get better he needed this program.  TC is a survivor and we believed and stood by our brother.  
 
After months of recovery we are thrilled to announce that TC is sober and currently on track to complete his program in the next two months.  We we’re able to talk to him recently and we want to share some of his thoughts.
“Right now it feels good to be sober for 7 months.”
“I don’t have no urge of drinkin’ again, I just want to keep my mind clear where I can focus more on building the furniture. “
 
“Eventually I’m going to start looking for my son that I had left about 11 years ago and try to get back in his life since I’m sober, and be the father that I’m supposed to be.”
 
“Maybe one day I can open my own shop and go out and hire some homeless and teach them the same trade that’s been taught to me. Then maybe people will start recognizing the craftsmanship that a lot of us homeless have in woodworking.” 
 
For us seeing this happen reminds us of why we started Lamon Luther.  We were able to give TC a hand up instead of just a hand out. He is a different man because he chose to take action and fight for the man he knew he could be. We were there to love on him and encourage him along the way and we cannot wait to celebrate with him when he returns to the shop.  
And here is where you come in! 
TC loves receiving letters from us here at the shop. 
This month we are asking YOU to write TC a letter and send it in! 
We know TC would love it if you sent a letter to empower and encourage him 
on his road to recovery. If you would like to please mail them to: 
 
Lamon Luther
200 Old Liberty Road (Unit A)
Villa Rica, GA 30180
USA
March 05, 2014


COMMUNITY: HOMESPUN

We got together with the founders of Homespun and wanted to know more about these gatherings we kept hearing about. When we asked them to explain what happens they responded, "Well, come see for yourself!" They kindly invited us to a recent Homespun Gathering and let us experience a night around a table with complete strangers and a wholesome meal. Homespun is such a great concept, idea and experience for growing community around the table. Below is a video of Jason and Jamie talking more about Homespun and how they gather around the table.
Featured table: Etta Kitchen Island (past collection)
Follow Homespun:

February 24, 2014


February 11, 2014


GATHER: GREEN LUNCHEON

For our very first "Gather" post we will be featuring a simple and healthy lunch option for you and your friends to share around the table. At Lamon Luther, we believe community starts around the table so these posts are here to give you practical ways to create your own gatherings at home.
This lunch gathering goes by the name, Green Luncheon. For all you health nuts out there, this meal is not only a healthy choice but it's SO easy to make (we're talking minutes people!). Make sure to keep up with future gather posts for new and delicious meals you can make for your guests!
This meal features recipes for:
February 11, 2014


RECIPE: INFUSED HONEY (A GIFT TO YOUR GUESTS!)

One of the sweetest and most delightful snacks can be just as simple and honey and toast. This recipe is hardly a recipe, but more of an activity you can do with your guests! Infusing honey with herbs and different pantry items adds a delicious flavor to your plain old honey and tastes great with some ricotta cheese. You can collect fun jars from thrift stores or reuse any of your glass wear from empty jam containers for your guests to take their honey home with them. 
Supplies:
Locally sourced honey
Infusions (such as: rosemary, mint, lemon peels, cinnamon sticks...) 
Ricotta cheese
Sour dough bread
February 11, 2014


RECIPE: KALE FETA POMEGRANATE SALAD

Ingredients
Salad ingredients:
- 1 bunch of kale
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds or Craisins
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 medium cucumber, diced
Dressing ingredients:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- zest of 1 medium lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
-1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- fresh cracked pepper to taste
Directions:
1. In mason jar, mix in all the salad dressing ingredients together and shake well.
2. Wash kale and blot dry any excess water. De-stem the kale and cut into bite sized pieces.
3. In large bowl, combine the chopped kale, pomegranate seeds/Craisins, feta cheese and cucumber. Add salad dressing to the kale salad and toss until combined.